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Image of Nkisi N'kondi (Power Figure)

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unknown Congolese (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Congolese Primary

Nkisi N'kondi (Power Figure)

Probably 20th century
Wood, metal
State: Likely made for the tourist market and not ritually used

12.992 x 7.087 x 5.118 in. (33 x 18 x 13 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 2017.7.1
Geography: Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Congolese, Central African, African

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • carvings - Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
  • Central African - Styles and cultures from a wide region of Africa that straddles the Equator and is drained largely by the Congo River system.
  • Congolese - Nationality, styles, and cultures of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • fetishes - Objects believed to be enchanted, or have magical power to aid or protect its owner.
  • minkisi - Sculpture used to contain potent medicines that are associated with spiritual or healing power, often taking the form of carved wooden figures or assemblages of objects, such as bundles, shells, pots, and amulets. Originating in the Congo region of Africa, their use in divination, protection, and healing rites has been carried to Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, and the American South.
  • minkondi - Wooden sculptures to which medicines are added and activated during oath-taking rites, sometimes by driving nails, blades, or wood points into the sculpture's surface.
  • reproduction - The process of making replicas or copies of art images, art objects, decorative arts, built works, or other valued images or objects, made without intent to deceive.
  • ritual objects - Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
  • sacred objects - Broadly, ceremonial objects that retain their sacredness in their present context. Sometimes defined more narrowly as only those needed by a present-day culture to practice their religion. For objects that are used primarily for a religious ceremony or function, but are not necessarily in themselves considered sacred, use "religious objects."
  • tourism - The industry providing facilities and services to people traveling for recreation.
  • wood - The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • Exhibiting Africa: Ways of Seeing, Knowing, and Showing Bryn Mawr College , Jan 25, 2017 – Mar 5, 2017

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • "Smarthistory: Art, History, Conversation." (Accessed May 9, 2020):
  • "Rand African Art." (Accessed May 9, 2020):
  • Wyatt MacGaffey, "Complexity, Astonishment and Power: The Visual Vocabulary of Kongo Minkisi." Journal of Southern African Studies: Special Issue on Culture andConsciousness in Southern Africa 14, no. 2 (January 1988): 188-203.
  • Wyatt MacGaffey, "Fetishism Revisited: Kongo "Nkisi" in Sociological Perspective." Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 47, no. 2 (1977): 172-184.
  • Wyatt MacGaffey, "The Personhood of Ritual Objects: Kongo "Minkisi"." Etnofoor: Fetishism 3, no. 1 (1990): 45-61.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Nkisi N'kondi (Power Figure) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=6/7/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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