Fang Reliquary Head Gabon
This example is a well carved head that was probably attached to a basket or a box of relics. This head shape is often identified with figures and masks common throughout a region stretching from Cameroon, through Gabon to the Atlantic coastal area. The function of this interesting and unique old carving is unknown, however due to the quality of carving and the details of the face that are similar to figural images found the family altar we identify it with the Fang Byeri funerary cult.
Byeri reliquary held the bones of ancestors and were venerated through annual ceremonies at which they were present in the form of the sculptures. Photographed as early as 1907 (Tessmann 1913/1972, vol. II) the cult of Byeri began to lose its prominence after 1910 due to French colonial government pressure. In the past figures would often be embellished with native copper bands around arms or wrists and some would hold in front of them miniature ancestor figures or carved animal horns known as Nlakh or small cups used in Byeri rituals honoring ancestors