UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum

Collection

Reliquary Head (bieri)
Fang peoples, Cameroon
Wood,
12.5 x 5 x 4.5 inches
Gift of John F. Mizroch,
2005.22.2

The bieri figures of the Fang people are the guardians of reliquary baskets containing the bones of ancestors. The spherical head suggests both a child and a skull, an impression enhanced by the round eyes set into a concave face since the round head and open stare are typical of infants. The Fang perceive their reliquary figures as expressing ancestral benevolence and therefore this bieri may refer to their concern for the continued fertility of the group.