Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi)

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

General Description

All minkisi (sing. nkisi) are containers for consecrated substances, or "medicine," that empower them to protect, heal, or destroy. Each figure has a special name, a specific function, and a ritual to activate it. This one belongs to a class of minkisi called mikondi (sing. nkondi), a reference to a wooden sculpture that is stuck with nails or blades. Its name, Mangaaka, means "one who strikes fear into the beholder," and its pose is called vonganana, or "to come on strong." When awakened by a ritual specialist hammering a nail or blade into its body, this large-scale figure acted on behalf of a community or association to protect it from negative forces, seal an oath, or hunt an evildoer.

This nkisi is one of twenty that originated in a single workshop on the Chiloango River, each with staring eyes, a beard, and an abdominal cavity covered by a large cowrie shell. Additionally, each wears a fiber skirt and ornate chief's hat and is realistically modeled with massive shoulders, a hands-on-hip pose, and feet placed on separate rectangular blocks.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Roz Walker discusses Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi) (DMA collection 1996.184.FA); Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chiloango River Valley, Yombe peoples
Learn about the Yombe peoples.
Collections smartphone audio related to Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi) from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chiloango River Valley, Yombe peoples; 1996.184.FA

Web Resources

  • Khan Academy
    See another example of an nkisi nkondi and learn more about these power figures.

  • Art Through Time
    See another nkisi nkondi by a Yombe artist.