The Kota peoples live in a wide area across eastern Gabon and parts of northern Congo. They are perhaps best known in the West for their highly distinctive reliquary guardian figures. Virtually unique within the field of African art, these objects are composed of an underlying wood structure covered with skilfully applied plates and strips of brass and copper - metals which have great prestige amongst the Kota.
Reliquary guardian figures were attached by their lozenge shaped bases to baskets or bundles containing the revered bones of important clan members. The mysterious and striking presence of these figures was intended both to suggest the memory of the ancestors and to protect their bones from desecration or sacrilege. As well as fulfilling the need to maintain good relations between both the living and dead members of a clan or lineage, these figures served 'a less well known purpose in magic rites, particularly in divination and healing, even sometimes, and more covertly, in "black magic".' (Louis Perrois, Kota, Milan, 2012, p. 152).