These figures symbolically evoke the ancestor and guard the relics within. These sculptures may reflect Fang's ideas about death and rebirth in the use of infantile forms such as a high, bulging forehead and shortened limbs combined with more mature characteristics. Spiritually empowered by the bones and relics, these reliquary figures could also be placed in and around the houses of the extended family for protection.
Culture and Traditions
Songhai-Zarma people included the kings and warriors, the scribes, the artisans, the weavers, the hunters, the fishermen, the leather workers and hairdressers (Wanzam), and the domestic slaves (Horso, Bannye). Each caste reveres its own guardian spirit. The Kingdom of Songhai, or Songhay, developed from a community of fishermen who lived along the Niger River and were skilled canoeists. During the 9th century they became part of the state of Songhai and began trading with Muslim traders in Gao, which than became part of the kingdom.
Dr. & Mrs. Scotty L. Greenwald donated in the year 2002.
Date of Digitization
J. B . Coleman Library
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Prairie View A&M University, "SONGHAY Culture of Arts from eastern Mali, western Niger, and northern Benin - (Reliquary Guard)" (2022). African Sculptures and Masks. 33.