Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi)
Wood, metal, nails, mirrored glass, pigment ca. 20th century
H. 27 1/8 x W. 16 in. Approximately
This sculpture is from the Republic of the Congo circa possibly late 19th to early 20th century. The figure’s forward leaning posture with hands placed akimbo on the hips is the aggressive attitude of one who challenges fearlessly. There are remnants of an abdominal cavity meant for medicinal matter that originally attracted the figure’s defining force. The medicine was placed by a ritual specialist (nganga) who created the figure along with the help of a Kongo sculptor. The metals embedded in the figure’s broad torso attest to its primary role as the witness and enforcer of affairs critical to its community. The combination of organic and inorganic substances, chosen for their cultural significance, may include plant fibers, stones, resins, relics and pigments, among other objects. The abdomen has a protruding rectangular mirror-covered box, along with an overturned pottery bowl pierced with nails that serve as the main receptacles for the medicinal substances.