About the Artwork
This nkisi nkondi acts as an armature for a large array of materials, added by a healer who alone knew the secret composition of herbal medicines, roots, plants, and even small carved wood sculptures that gave the figure its efficacy. Staring eyes chipped from mirrors warned aggressors and deflected their malice, while potent substances held in a bundle over the navel were hidden from view by the cape of cloth strips. The nkisi spotlights iron’s empowering roles, as the many forged shards, blades, tools, and nails directed supernatural powers to human desires and needs. Each iron piece was hammered in to awaken the spirits present in the sculpture and direct them to solving personal and community problems. Such a figure became an archive of intentions, as the scraps of cloth, iron, shells, and beads served as reminders of people’s requests for help from the spirit world.
Looking Closely: Examining Expressions