Nkondi Figure

vkk-1112-8_f_  vkk-1112-8_v_  vkk-1112-8_b_  vkk-1112-8_34p_

VKK 1112-8

Nkondi Fetish Figure, Zaïre (DR Congo)

Dark brown Hippo Ivory

H: 18 cm (7,1″)

This visually powerful sculpture, which was once owned by a ritual specialist, who used it as a tool to control and keep spiritual power. The force was added to the figure by using medicine packed in resin and placed on the head. The Congolese called these spiritual objects ‘minkisi’ (singular, ‘nkisi’) or nkondi, or hunters, with regard to its capacity for aggressive detection of offenders. The thin iron or copper chain around the figure’s head is there to increase the ability to attract a spirit, that can be connected to a specific problem that its power was called upon to solve. In the Democratic Republic of Congo nkisi has been used for centuries as tools to combat disease and sorcery, to punish criminals, or solve other problems. The physical form of a nkisi spirit is designed to damage or help. Some minkisi were encouraged to influence society through violent means, and others were used to act more friendly. The particular shape a nkisi has is less important than the drugs that it contains, however this is still a skillfully made figure.

Nkondi figures are also used in connection with the hearing of an accused criminal. When the accused faces the nkondi figure he does not lie for fear of an unknown and incalculable punishment.

Age: Est. Mid. 20th Century

Provenance: Danish private collection

Literature: MacGaffey, Wyatt (1977). “Fetishism Revisted: Kongo nkisi in Sociological Perspective.” Africa 47: 140-152.

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