“Living on the eastern side of Gabon, on the frontier with the Republic of Congo, the Kota people comprise a number of small tribes such as the Mahongwe, the Sango, the Obamba and the Shamaye, who all practice similar ceremonies. It is though they migrated southwards during the 18th century and settled in the upper valley of the Ogooué River, in a forest environment. Their main resources come mostly from hunting and agriculture.

Historically, the Kota left their dead unburied in the forest, far from the village. Under the influence of neighboring tribes, they began to bury their dead. Chiefs were always buried, but often their bones (especially their skull) were later exhumed and placed with magical objects (shells, seeds, fruits) in a bark box or a basket called a Bwete, in which a carved figure was inserted.

These reliquary baskets were kept for generations, but during the 20th century, when religious beliefs changed, they were abandoned or even destroyed. Between 1940 and 1964, a movement referred to as the ‘culte des demoiselles’ was responsible for the destruction of most of these traditional objects. This movement was based on the idea that mimicking Western values and lifestyles, as well as abandoning the old cults and idols, would help them to gain what they perceived as western power.”

Baquart, Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.