Fang Wooden Byeri Sculpture

SKU PF.0144

Very Fine


1870 AD to 1920 AD


30″ (76 cm) high


Brass, Wood


Southwestern Gabon/Cameroon

Gallery Location

S Korea


The Fang people migrated from the northwest during the 18th and 19th centuries and are today spread out across southern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. They are primarily hunters but farm as well. Fang social structure is based upon the clan, a group of individuals with a common ancestor, and upon the family. They also maintain tribal cohesion through the So and Ngil societies. Each family possessed a Byeri, or reliquary box, in which the bones of famous ancestors were kept. The box was kept by the Esa, the eldest man in the family. Fang Byeri figures (the guardian statue that surmounts the Byeri box) are usually characterized by a seated male figure. He normally has bent legs, an elongated torso, hands which are usually joined around the stomach, and a head with stylized features that may include inlaid metal eyes. In this case, the figure holds his hands alongside his stomach. Sometimes similar sculptures hold magical divination devices in their hands in order to conjure up spiritual forces. However, this powerful figure needs no tools, for he is able to communicate with the beyond solely with his hypnotic stare. This guardian clearly commands a forceful presence in the mysterious realm of the other world. He functions both as guardians of the spirits of deceased ancestors as well as the protector of our health and benevolence that are influence by the forces from beyond.

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