Guardian Figure, Semangoy 
Kota, Gabon
Atelier of Semangoy
Middle of 19th cent.
Wood, copper, brass, iron, shell

63 cm

Colonial Belgian Collection, Bruxelles
Galerie Ratton-Hourdé, Paris acquired from the above Collection Marc Larock, Paris acquired from the above
Anna Demina Collection, Milan


Galerie Ratton-Hourdé, “Kota”, Paris, 2003, pp. 52-53
 Galerie Ratton, “Gabon”, Paris, 2017, pp. 42-43

Dalton Somaré, “Un’Avventura Estetica”, Milano, 2018, pp. 13-15

Origins, A Vision on African Art, Dalton Somaré Gallery, Milan, 2019, pp. 42/45

This large and powerful Kota-Wumbu Reliquary Guardian Figure can be attributed to the master carver Semangoy who was active in the village of Zokolunga during the second half of the 19th century.
As a matter of fact we can observe in this sculpture the large volumes, the absence of decorations and the precise geometry of forms which are typical of the works attributed to him.
The half-moon incision in the center of the crescent, which is regarded as the true signature of Semangoy, also speaks in favour of this attribution as well as for the habit of covering the neck with a metal ferrous foil and for the use to put European screws in place of the iris.
Recurrent in the style of this master are the wide surfaces of smooth, plain metal.
The choice to avoid any decorations reinforces the impersonality and the abstraction of these figures and increases the power of their presence.
In this excellent example the massive and rounded forehead surmounts the large and bulging eyes from which emanate a severe and powerful gaze.
A copper band, placed horizontally, breaks the uniformity of the cheeks and underlines and high-lines the gaze.
The precise line of the nose drives the eyes to the open mouth which cavity has been filled with a cowrie, following a use seen in other Guardian Figures coming from this area.
This overall majestic Guardian Figure was certainly keeping watch on the large casket which enshrined the memories of the ancestors of an important Kota clan.