Ambete Memorial Reliquary Figure with Rear Cavity Gabon
This is a small but striking figure that carries a great deal of visual presence. The strong body has small parallel arms as well as slightly modeled legs and feet and no sex is shown. The face is expressionistically powerful with cowrie shells serving as eyes and with triangular nose and square mouth. The striations of the hair and the prominent medial crest are typical of the AmBete style. This figure is dominated by the use of red and white pigment. An open box for relics in the back is filled with nails.
This is a standing memorial or ancestral figure in a classic style of Ambete. The figure appears to have some age to it due to the worn surface. The Ambete live along the border between present day Gabon and the south eastern region of the Republic of Congo. It is an area that in the past saw great population movements and extended trade between different people resulting in shared ritual and sculptural traditions. Like their Kota speaking neighbors the Ambete make use of reliquary figures to honor and commemorate important lineage members. Most Ambete reliquary figures have a small opening at the back of the figure that would be covered by a small door to hold the bones of an ancestor.