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Object Name: Janus reliquary guardian figure (mbulu-ngulu)
Culture: Kota peoples
Place of Origin: Gabon
Date/Era: 18th-19th century
Medium/Materials: Wood, copper alloy, iron
Dimensions: H: 67.5 cm
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Accession Number: X65.3800
Peoples of Gabon created a constellation of art forms to honor and protect their departed ancestors. The Kota peoples placed the remains of their distinguished ancestors in baskets or bundles that were tended by reliquary figures with exquisite formal geometries. Copper or metal was often used in the construction of these guardian figures, as the reflective surfaces served to deter evil forces. Within a family or community, reliquaries were often brought together, thereby amassing their protective and beneficent powers. The janus faces of this mbulu-ngulu signal the all-seeing powers of the figures as they vigilantly protected ancestral shrines.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.