Fang Bieri Reliquary Figural Container Guinea
The Fang people, residing in Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon's rainforests, uphold a rich cultural heritage tied to their belief in ancestral relic's spiritual power, notably seen in their bieri-associated reliquary guardians. Over centuries, the Fang migrated southwest, safeguarding ancestors' skulls in sacred bark boxes symbolizing lineage continuity and community cohesion. Mounted atop were carved heads or figures, shielding contents from women and uninitiated boys' view. Originally heads, these guardians evolved into busts and full figures. As the bieri cult waned in the 20th century, the syncretic bwiti religion emerged, reducing bieri's significance. Fang artisans' bieri figures embody esteemed qualities like tranquility, vitality, and balance, reflected in their forms—infant heads on adult bodies signifying life stages and generational cycles. Static yet tense, with passive faces and taut muscles, these figures embody the Fang's quest for harmony and equilibrium, expressing their spiritual and cultural ideals.
Provenance: Robert Pearson Collection
Bob Pearson began collecting African art later in his life. He was an engineer, inveterate climber, and long-time collector of books and paintings. Spurred by the Douglas Society at the Denver Museum of Art, and his friendship with noted collector George Heggarty, he began building an enormous, eclectic collection. His African art library grew to several hundred books. He loved textiles and “material culture”-things that had domestic use, like spoons, cups, stools, and chairs, as well as masks and carvings. His collection included items from more than thirty African countries, and his fine eye gave him pieces ranging from a gold dust scale to huge Dogon figural ladders. Africa Direct is honored to have been chosen to sell them.