Songye Figure

LSK 1121-1 

Songye “Horn” Community Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sacred medicines and divine protection are central to the belief of the Kongo peoples (Democratic Republic of Congo). The Kongo believe that the great god, Ne Kongo, brought the first sacred medicine (or nkisi) down from heaven in an earthenware vessel set upon three stones or termite mounds.

This very complex statue of with its unusual and dramatic “Horn” Community Power Figure (nkishi), Democratic Republic of Congo, Songye people. Made with an ordinary buck antelope (Kobus ellipsiprumnus) horn (or a domestic goat (Capra hircus) horn attached to the head surrounded by an impressive feather ornament. Which is completed by a series of metal plates which form a kind of ‘crown’.  The face richly decorated with metal beads. Eyebrows and the ‘eyeball’ itself and cheeks are coated with brass plates. Carved ‘pearl collar’ around the neck and three large cawry inserted on the breast and one on each shoulder.

The body itself is hollow for storing sacred medicines with a small lid in front decorated with a large brass ‘knob’.

This Songye power figure has an intensely striking physical presence due to the dynamic contrast between his horn radiating from the head and the powerful quality of the face and an open mouth. ,

The metal additions to the face increase the value and texture of the figure. The size of the figure (70 cm – 27 inches) suggests its use either personally for a community leader or by a larger community.

Age: Est. late 19th – early 20th century.

Mesure: H: 70, W: 20, D: 30 cm.

Condition: Despite age and clearly diligent use, this ‘power figure’ is in exceptionally good condition. Well-protected by clay that has been smeared and still finds remnants of it.

Provenance: Private Italian collector.

Literature: David C. Driskell, Michael D. Harris, Wyatt Macgaffey, and Sylvia H. Williams, Astonishment and power (Washington: Published for the National Museum of African Art by the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the spirit: African and Afro-American art and philosophy (New York: Random House, 1983).

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