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As I noted in La statuaire fan (Gabon) in 1972 (p.321), the Fénéon-Ratton-Berès ekuma head demonstrates very original workmanship. This small head's volumetric construction is centered around an elongated pyriform face, with high cheekbones which taper severely to the chin; with a slightly curved quarter-sphere forehead and a carefully polished, satiny surface, punctuated by large, hollowed eye sockets, dotted with brass-tack eyes.
The cylindrical neck is protruding from a thick circular base, in a faceted torque form. In fact, the sculpture used to have a support peduncle (probably from 30 to 40 cm. of length) which was cut long ago by the base maker, and one can still see the raw edge. In this regard, one notes that all analogous heads had these peduncles (see for example, the head from the former Helena Rubinstein collection - 51 cm. with the support handle - or the head from the Ethnographic Museum of Neufchâtel, which has a long quadrangular peduncle - IIIC7400, 48 cm.).
The headdress, in a halo form with ekuma lateral tresses, relates almost identically to other eyema byeri heads produced in the Okano valley, on the right side of the Ogooué river, in Gabon (cf. La statuaire fan (Gabon), p. 314 et sq.), but here, treated in low relief, with a completely flat back. Initially, it was certainly decorated with a tuft of feathers, fixed at the top of the forehead.
What appeared to me in 1972 (La statuaire fan (Gabon), p.321) as an exceptional form, instead, if we think about the comparable objects published since then, appears to be a significant sub-variant, known since at least the 19th century. These figures in low relief, with a face of appoximately 20 cm. high, together with a long neck and peduncle, stick, or small plank extension beneath (about 30 to 40 cm.), were attached to cylindrical reliquary boxes made out of bark (see Pastor Fernand Grébert's drawings, realized in-situ in the 1920's). Given their form and size, they certainly remained in place as "guardians" of ancestral human remains.
This small head, formerly Félix Fénéon and Charles Ratton collection, 26 cm., was carved in a light-colored wood, and over time the satiny patina has given way to areas of brown-black variation (notably at the reverse). Given that it was collected in Gabon at the beginning of the 20th century, we can estimate its inception to the middle of the 19th century.