Container for nkisi force with feather headdress, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1890-1925
Used by the Bakongo people of West-central Africa, this carved wooden figure, decorated with a feather headdress, is used for nkisi force. Nkisi is used by ethnic groups 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.