Male figure

Wood-carved, standing figure with knees slightly flexed, prominent gentalia, naturalistic face, pointed beard and eyes inset with a white material, probably small ceramic fragments. The feet are missing. It wears a metal ring around its neck, and a string with metal fragments, glass beads and a small metal bell is attached across its chest, from arm to arm. A vertical crack on the front right side of the figure is filled with a gauzy material.
Artist Unknown, African, Beembe Peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo
c. 1870
This well-worn figure may have started its life as a mukuya--a figure commemorating a clan ancestor--and was later converted into an nkisi, or power figure. Such repurposing of an important ritual object was not uncommon in the wider Bakongo region, where ritual specialists used figures like this one to invoke the power of ancestors as well as other spiritual forces to intercede in human affairs.
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
Tuesday, May 26, 2020