The Kota people from the eastern part of Gabon practice Bwete, the cult of the ancestors – ancestors who are feared, but whose protection is also sought out. The bones of the most illustrious dead are cleaned and carefully preserved in baskets of woven fibres topped with a flat wooden core covered with strips of brass and copper wire.
This effigy represents a simplified human figure, the eyes of which are indicated by two copper disks with pupils marked by nails. The rear of the head is extended by a crest ending in a pointed topknot, ornamented with a tuft of feathers. The basket is edged with long strips of cut and rolled skin topped with a circle of straw surrounded by skin and a loosely crossed basketwork plait.
During the initiation rites presided over by the family's priest, the relics are fed with sacrificial blood and are presented with food, which is later consumed by the living. The sculptures are rubbed with sand so that they retain their shine before being brandished by the dancers. Women, children and outsiders are excluded from these sacred ceremonies which require participants to have undergone initiation.