Standing female power figure (nkishi)

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

General Description

Though rare, female power figures assume the same pose as the male, with hands at either side of the belly, and both serve the same function: to provide protection, healing, or therapy for its owner. Here, the empowering consecrated substances are packed into the figure's belly and belt. This nkishi displays the raised scarification on the breasts and around the belly that used to be a common body modification and adornment for Songye women. The figure was probably owned by a household or an association. Due to repeated anointments many decades ago, the nkishi continues to exude oil.

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.