Wooden figure used as container for nkisi force, West-central Africa, 1890-1910
Carved from wood, this figure is used as a container for nkisi force. Nkisi is the force used by ethnic groups living in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight illness and disease and protects from future harm. It is perceived as a power arising from the invisible world of the dead. To become powerful within the human world, for good or bad, it must be persuaded to inhabit a contained space. This typically takes the form of a statue such as this one. Once in place, the nkisi is operated and manipulated by the priest who commissioned it.
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A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.