Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Power Figure: Male (Nkisi)

19th–20th century
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Songye peoples
Wood, copper, brass, iron, fiber, snakeskin, leather, fur, feathers, mud, resin
H. 39 in. (91.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mrs. Charles Engelhard and Mary R. Morgan Gifts and Rogers Fund, 1978
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
A Songye "nganga", or religious specialist, has endowed this carved figure with spiritual powers by inserting symbolic substances—animal, vegetable, and mineral—into its head, abdomen, and shoulders, and by attaching bundles of similar ingredients to its chest, neck, and feet. Offerings to ancestral spirits who bestow fertility and provide protection against disease and misfortune are still visible in the sculpture's mouth. A power figure of this size is owned communally by the members of a Songye village, who consult it regularly at public ceremonies.
[A Brussels dealer]; [Alan Brandt, New York, until 1970]; Milton D. Ratner Family Collection, Chicago; [Pace Primitive and Ancient Art Gallery, New York, until 1978]

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