Power Figure (nkisi nduda)

Small wooden figure with naturalistic human face engulfed in layers of multi-media attachments including animal hides, medicine packs, and a turban bound in feathers. Figure holds the tip of a curved piece of wood in its mouth, the other end of which terminates in its clutched right hand. A round mirrior is embdedded in the figure's "belly." The hides and fibers creating the “skirt” are intact, making it unique.
Artist Unknown, African, Yombe Peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo
2nd half of 19th century
Ritual specialists called banganga (plural of nganga) use minkisi (plural of nkisi) as divination tools. With the help of incantations, whistle sounds, claps, and other interactive gestures, ritual practitioners call ancestral spirits from the underworld to inhabit sculptures like this one as a means of resolving social, political, or personal problems, which befall communities or individuals.
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
Sunday, August 14, 2022