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Female figure (nkisi), late 19th century
Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kongo
Wood, ivory, H: 10 1/2 in, W: 4 in, D: 3 in
Purchase 1924  24.2121
Not On View
Interpretation: Among the Kongo and many other central African cultures, spirits of the dead have long been viewed as having extraordinary powers believed to be harnessed through the creation of ritual objects known as minkisi (or in the singular, nkisi). These objects are commissioned and used by religious specialists for a variety of purposes, including healing and protection as well as for contractual agreements. As containers for spiritually-charged substances, minkisi can take the form of natural objects such as shells or horns, or wooden sculpture. This nkisi figure has a cavity in the abdomen to place empowering materials, which are now missing.
Provenance: John Cotton Dana, by at least 1924; Newark Museum, 1924
Exhibition History:
"Arts of Africa," permanent galleries, Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey (installed 2008).