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If there is a ritual object capable of obscuring the origin and context of its creation with the charm of its presence, beauty and intensity, this object is the reliquary Byeri of the Fang people.


Although known and studied in various contexts and eras, the Fang ethnic group, also like many other populations in central Africa, is extremely composite and varied, but remains in the shadow compared to the complex ritual of byeri.

The sculptural Fang represents a homogeneous style within the African plastic production, perhaps due to the permanence of this ethnic group in the same space and for a relatively limited historical period.

As is known, the sculptures composed of only one head were those placed on the top of a vegetable fiber container suitable for collecting the bones and other objects of the ancestors of the family clan.

The origin and seniority of these "reliquary heads" have been the subject of extensive research by various historians and anthropologists, but they have not reached a unique conclusion.

In 1990, coinciding with the preparation of an exhibition dedicated to the Fang culture at the Musée d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens et Amérindies of Marseille (Byéri Fang, Sculptures d'ancêtre en Afrique), it was discovered, by the observation of some radiographs of the sculptures, that they contained numerous fragments of human bones or teeth inside, inserted in the nape or in the center of the forehead.


Perrois, speaking of this discovery, underlines in the catalog of the exhibition how these sculptures have now become themselves "reliquaries".

Typical are the long neck, the rounded forehead, the heart-shaped face and the brass tacks on the eyes (in this specific case they have been lost, the corresponding holes remain to confirm their previous presence and positioning).


Fang Reliquary

  • Details

    Dating: XX

     Dimensions: H: 48.5 cm L: 11.5 cm W: 8 cm

     Weight: 736 gr

    Material / technique: Wood sculpture with patina

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