Reintegration / Ancestors

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Kota peoples, Gabon, reliquary guardian. Drawing by Paul du Chaillu. 

This engraving published in 1888 in the French travel magazine Le Tour du Monde shows three Kota reliquary guardian figures mounted on round baskets that contain the skulls and other bones of honored ancestors.  The reliquaries and guardians have been placed in a small shrine on a raised bamboo platform.  Three reliquaries without guardian figures are in the left foreground.  Because these could be seen only from the front the artist has made the sides and back of the head and hairstyle visible frontally by “unfolding” the head.  The geometric shapes that flank the face are the hairstyle sliced open and folded forward to be visible to the viewer.