African Tribal Art: Bakongo people, Democratic Republic of Congo: A large Nkisi n'kondi Power Figure with Two Heads, made of carved wood with nails, metal blades, fabric, pigments, animal horn, glass, shells and other natural materials. Mid 20th Century. The unusual feature of two heads indicates that the n'kisi has the power to see in to the world of the living and the land of the dead, and is therefore extremely effective and powerful.
A n'kisi (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 n'kisi has a glass-covered container for such elements in its torso. eyes are also covered with glass, enhancing the figure's other-worldly appearance.
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 n'kisi n'kondi can be used to resolve verbal disputes or lawsuits (mambu) as well as to be an avenger (the term n'kondi 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'Kondi figures are illustrated in Robbins and Nooter, AFRICAN ART IN AMERICAN COLLECTIONS, Page 369, plates 954 and 955.
35H x 16W x 12D (inches).
Private Collection, Massachusetts, Private Collection, New York
Good condition, showing age. The base had insect damage, now repaired with a modern filler.
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