Fang Ngil Figure Gabon
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Fang people migrated to their current region, becoming part of a larger population of around 200,000 individuals spanning southern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Within Fang society, emphasis was placed on family lineage, and reverence for ancestors was central, observed at family shrines where byeri, or memorials and reliquary boxes containing the bones of their ancestors, were tended to by an elder known as the Esa. These containers, crafted from bark or woven basketry, bore sculpted figures as guardians of the Fang ancestors' remains. Referred to as eyema-o-byeri, these guardian figures acted as focal points for ancestor veneration and validated the initiation rites of young men, though they were typically concealed from view when not actively used. The distinctive posture of the Fang figures, slightly crouched with legs bent to rest on the container, allowed them to perch on the edge of the byeri, their legs hanging over the side.