Power Object, Nkisi

20521825-1935_001_017_Bpa_ARC.tif

Title

Power Object, Nkisi

Keywords

Adornment, amulet, fetish, fiber

Date

before 1935

Context

Central Africa, Democractic Republic of the Congo, Ekaya
Songye

Medium/Dimensions

Fiber, animal horn, metal
2 11/16 x 1 5/16 in. (3.3 x 6.9 cm)

Object Number

1935.001.017

Description

Power objects, generically referred to as nkisi (pl. minkisi/mankisi), are a common feature of many cultures of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nkisi were used by diviners and healers to contact benevolent spirits in the hope of curing illness, infertility, or other maladies. The efficacy of nkisi derives from combinations of empowering substances, called bishimba. Substances, such as clay, vegetable matter, stones, fur, seeds, and horns were combine. Formulas according to which bishimba are assembled effects a mystical reaction, bringing spirit forces into play with the physical world.

Nkisi take many forms, from human figures to horns, bracelets, necklaces, pendants like this one, and even "nails". This object was collected in the town of Eyaka in former Zaire by Reverend J.H. Maw some time before 1935. Maw commissioned many pieces, and documented their method of manufacture and purpose as forms of bwanga (medicine). While some were designed to remedy existing problems, such as infertility, spasms, or insanity, lack of appetite, social discord with neighbors, or run-ins with state officials, others were commissioned to preempt potential problems revealed to a client through portentous dreams.

Credit Line

Gift of Rev. J.H. Maw

Exhibits/Publications

Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 5 - December 4, 2011

Rights

© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2010.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View

No

Citation

“Power Object, Nkisi,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed June 22, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/6718.

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