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Ancestral Reliquary Guardian Figure
Most Gabonese decorated their reliquary containers with abstract guardian figures. For more than 130 years, Europeans such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Andre Derain collected work by Kota sculptors, known for their stylized depictions of the human face--which represented the ancestral skulls in abstract form and often alluded to status of the deceased in a number of ways. The flattened, convex, two-dimensional faces typically had some simplified facial features such as eyes and noses, and were supported by cylindrical necks that extended into a wide variety of bases attached to the reliquaries. In the Snite Museum's figure, the top of the head featured an extension, tilting backwards, that represented a braided hairstyle favored by the titled individuals.
from Morton, Dimensions of Power (South Bend, 2018)