Material: Wood, Bark
Size: 18.5" (47 cm)
Provenance: ex Private USA Collection.
The Fang peoples, also reffered to as Pangwe are spread over a pretty vast area, from the Sananga River in Cameroon to the Ogowe River in Central Gabon.
The migratory existence of the Fang people prohibited the creation of grave sites. Instead, the remains of important dead, in the form of the skull and other bones, were carried from place to place in a cylindrical bark box (like the one above) , the basis of a transportable ancestral shrine called nsek-bieri. Within the container were represented the family's illustrious dead. Skulls were the most important of the relics, and the number of skulls in a box was a tangible reference to the antiquity of the lineage; the older the lineage, the more power it manipulated.
The aim of the bieri figure that surmounted the box was to protect the relics of the ancestor, abut also to act as a medium of communication with the ancestors when needing to invoke their assistance in matters of daily life.