Standing male power figure (nkishi)

Songye peoples
late 19th–early 20th century
more object details

General Description

The empty hole atop this figure's head and in its belly suggests that this small "brass"-studded nkisi may have been deactivated. These cavities once contained potent medicines that empowered the figure. According to some scholars, studded figures like this one were used to cure smallpox. Similar to metal strips found on the forehead and nose of some minkisi, the metal studs refer to lightning, which can counteract aggressive actions of malevolent forces that were believed to cause the disease.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.
  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 164-165.