Guardian Figure

Kota, Gabon
Middle of 19th cent.
Wood, copper, brass, iron
38 cm 



Former Colonial French Collection
Galerie Alain de Monbrison, Paris
Private Collection, Paris

Dalton Somaré Gallery, Milan
Anna Demina Collection, Milan 


Winter Bruneaf, Catalogue, Bruxelles, 2019


Parcours des Mondes, September 2018, Paris


According to E. Anderson (Contribution to the Ethnographie des Kuta, Uppsala, 1953-54) the Guardian Figures of this type, which Louis Perrois and Domenico Terrana classify in category 5, come from the South of Gabon at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Characterise this style an extreme stylisation and abstractness of forms.
As a matter of fact even the vaguely naturalistic and descriptive elements present in other variations of Kota styles are in this case completely abandoned in favour of a strictly geometric construction.
For example, the cylindrical pendants, usually interpreted as earrings and almost invariably present in other types of Guardian Figures, are here incorporated in the lateral expansions that surround the face and end with a half-moon shape that echoes the form of the wide crescent which concludes the upper part.
The face consists of an alternation of concave and convex surfaces which, starting from the front, shrinks to the height of the nose, reduced to a geometric solid, and then again widen to define the contour of the cheeks.
The eyes and the mouth are reduced to horizontal cracks to which the subtlety itself confers authority and mystery.
The subtle play of shapes is accentuated by the wise use of different metals arranged with meticulous attention on the wooden structure.
This example, which for its remarkable age can be considered an archetype of the style, is also distinguished by the succession of windings of different metals that decorate the upper edge of the crescent as well as for the double stitching of brass and iron bands that surround the temples.
This refined singularity, besides increasing the aesthetic quality of the sculpture, indirectly confirms the cultural attention dedicated to the realisation of this object and confirms its importance in its context of origin.