500 Gallery
Live Auction

Spring Fine Art Showcase

Wed, Apr 10, 2024 05:30PM EDT
Lot 16

Nkisi N'Kondi Power Figure, Bakugo People, DR Congo/Zaire

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African Tribal Art: Bakongo people, Democratic Republic of Congo: A large Nkisi n'kondi Power Figure, made of carved wood, pigments, fabric, glass, nails and natural elements. Early 20th Century.

A nkisi (plural: minkisi) is loosely translated as a "spirit" yet it is represented as a container of sacred substances which are activated by supernatural forces that can be summoned into the physical world. This nkisi has a container for such elements in its torso. The glass covering represents the otherworldly use of its contents. In addition, the eyes are glass-over-pigment, and there are several small fabric-wrapped packets interspersed among the nails.

Nkisi n'kondi
A Nkisi n'kondi (power figure) is a magical charm carved in the likeness of human being, meant to highlight its function in human affairs. A nkisi nkondi can be used to resolve verbal disputes or lawsuits (mambu) as well as to be an avenger (the term nkondi means ‘hunter’) or guardian if sorcery or any form of evil has been committed.

Minkisi are carved under the divine authority and in consultation with an nganga or spiritual specialist. The nganga activates the figures through the insertion of nails, chanting, praying and the preparation of sacred substances which are aimed at ‘curing’ physical, social or spiritual ailments.

Comparable, but smaller, Nkisi N'Kondifigures are illustrated in Robbins and Nooter, AFRICAN ART IN AMERICAN COLLECTIONS, Page 369, plates 954 and 955.

31H x 17W x 12D (inches).

Private Collection, Massachusetts, Private Collection, New York


Good condition with evidence of handling and age.

NOTE: If documentation is not listed, the lot is sold without documents.

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