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Reliquary head

Reliquary head
19th Century - Late
Africa : Fang
Wood, brass
h 26.0 x w 11 x d 12 cm
UEA 240

This figure was made by the Fang peoples, who live in Gabon on the west coast of Africa. The Fang kept skulls and small bones of lineage ancestors in cylindrical bark boxes or baskets; this was made as a guardian figure to watch over such relics. It shows some of the signs of its sacred and ritual use in the bright abstract eyes which see other spirits and the sheen from the oils with which it was anointed.

Fang heads provided inspiration for many artists in the early 20th century, including Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore.

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