Reliquary figure, Ngulu.

Africa. Gabon. Upper Ogooué. Southern Kota. Obamba group. 19th century. Wood, strips and plates of brass and copper. Height: 56 cm. Width: 30 cm. Inv. 13 461. Donated by F. Daleau.

These figures are symbolic representations of the tribe's ancestors and were placed upright in baskets containing human relics. Collected under sanctuary awnings some distance from the villages, they were also used like puppets in initiation dances.

Today considered as masterpieces of African art, these objects have constantly fascinated explorers such as Savorgnan de Brazza in the late 19th century, scientists such as François Daleau, the famous prehistorian from Bourg-sur-Gironde who owned this piece, and in particular Cubist artists from the early 20th century such as Picasso, Braque and Juan Gris, who had such figures in their studios.

Reliquary figure, Ngulu (c) mairie de Bordeaux