Object Name: Power figure (nkisi nkondi)
Culture: Yombe peoples
Place of Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date/Era: 18th-19th century
Medium/Materials: Wood, metal, nails, mirrors, cloth, cordage, beads, cowrie shell
Dimensions: H: 114.3 cm
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Accession Number: X65.5837
Embodiments of judicial authority with the ability to heal, power figures are central to the lives of Yombe and related Kongo peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such objects derive their power from the concept of nkisi, which enables them to cure, protect, or incriminate. Medicinal materials, such as sacred earth, ashes, and herbs, are packed in cavities often located in the figure’s stomach and head. The blades or nails pounded into the surface of the figure aid in awakening the spirit and attest to oaths sworn in legal proceedings.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.