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Power Figure (nkisi nkondi)

Unidentified Kongo artist
before 1908
Wood, iron, porcelain, glass, resin
Possibly associated with
Central Africa, Republic of the Congo, Africa
Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa
Cabinda province, Central Africa, Angola, Africa
Sculpture, wood
Current Location
On View, Gallery 102
height: 25 1/4 in. (64.1 cm)
Credit Line
Friends Fund
Public Domain
Object Number
“… [T]he nganga pounds on the nkisi… to awaken it, that it should arise and go.” – BABUTIDI TIMOTIO, 1916 With alert eyes, head raised, and right arm thrust upward, this figure embodies the character of a hunter. Each iron blade or nail across the torso attests to specific moments when the nganga, a ritual specialist, called the figure into action or “to the hunt.” Directed by the "nganga," the figure served purposes of healing, protection, or resolution on a client’s behalf. The figure’s white porcelain eyes, sensitively carved face, and mirrored belly emphasize the body’s spiritual power centers according to Kongo belief. These are also the sites where the "nganga" inserted plant, mineral, and other matter considered to be medicinal and powerful. The mirror, suggestive of the surface of water, evokes Kongo conceptualization of the ancestral realm.
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