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Mahongwe Reliquaries

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Item Mahreli
12.00 LBS
Calculated at checkout
Maximum Purchase:
1 unit(s)

Product Description

In the eyes of Africans residing within the equatorial regions, life was a two part ensemble: first, existence in the world of the living, secondly existence in the spirit world. It was of great importance for contact between these two worlds to be sustained. The reliquary is an object that unites human remains; skulls and bones with a carved statuette. It was designed to act as a receptacle and dwelling place for the spirit of the dead. The bones were placed in a basket, covered over with fibers and the reliquary was placed lastly on top. The reliquary provided a physical point of contact for the living to connect with the deceased and vice versa. Artistically, these objects vary in styling from tribe to tribe. The reliquary of the Mahongwe(also called Ossyeba)characteristically feature a snake-like face, fashioned from copper and brass. The statuette was to take on a non corporeal ghost like form; one that had rounded all seeing eyes and an abstract nose. The mouth was either barely apparent or  crafted in an unnatural circular form.This all lends to the supernatural aspect of the piece. Every Mahongwe clan had a reliquary that was kept in the back of the chief’s hut. They were brought out only during special ceremonies. Reliquaries made for prominent figures were a bit more elaborate in design and celebrated in spirit. Our selections have been richly detailed with brass and copper metal plating over the heads and torsos. Etched and raised embossments enhance the work. The center reliquary features a double sided face known as ‘janus’ styling. The addition of such adornment was done out of respect for the deceased and to enhance the power and voice of the reliquary vessel.

The three figures have been beautifully positioned on a 1 1/4 inch thick black wooden base.

Please click photo for enlargements!


Left: 14 1/2 inches tall x 6 inches wide.

Center: 18 inches tall x 6 inches wide.

Right: 14 inches tall x 7 inches wide.

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