Death and Rebirth

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Cameroon and Gabon; Fang artist

Eyima Bieri (reliquary guardian figure)

Wood, metal

H. 42.5 cm (17")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.540

Each of the key moments of life can be seen as a transition from one level or state of being to another accompanied by ceremonies that cut us off from the past and prepare us for the future. In conclusion, John Mbiti has written: "We have seen that birth is the first rhythm of a new generation, and rites of birth are performed in order to make the child a corporate and social being.  Initiation rites continue that process, and make him a mature, responsible and active member of society.  Marriage makes him a creative and reproductive being, linking him with both the departed and the generations to come.  Finally comes death, that inevitable and, in many societies, most disrupting phenomenon of all.  Death stands between the world of human beings and the world of spirits, between the visible and the invisible" (Mbiti 1969:145).