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Reliquary ancestor figure (bieri). The ensemble of Fang peoples practice a cult devoted to ancestor lineages, the bieri, whose aim is to both protect themselves from the deceased and to recruit their aid in matters of daily life. It coexists with other beliefs and rituals of a more collective character. It is the bieri, which has most obviously given rise to the making of remarkable wooden sculpture. Bieri are reliquary ancestor figures placed by the Fang upon their bark boxes to personify the tribal soul, containing the skulls and skeletons of prominent deceased persons. The bieri would be consulted when the village was to change location, when a new crop was planted, during a palaver, or before going hunting, fishing, or to war. The ritual consisted of prayers, libations, and sacrifices offered to the ancestor. With its large head and short legs, the bieri figure has the proportion of a newborn, thus emphasizing the group’s continuity with the three “classes” of the society: the “not-yet-born,” the living, and the dead. The bieri also served for therapeutic rituals and, above all, for the initiation of young males during the great so festival.
This bieri may show some signs of aging - but it is still very powerful!