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Nkisi

African Art

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Nkisi

Artwork Details

Artist/Maker

Songye Artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Date

Late nineteenth–early twentieth century

Medium

Wood, cowrie shells, fiber, metal, horn, seed pods, and hide

Accession #

2002.297

Dimensions

10 1/2 × 4 1/4 × 5 1/4 inches

Location

On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 404

Description

The ritually charged materials in this nkishi include cowrie-shell eyes for clairvoyance and at the navel a small iron pin or miniature anvil—a symbol of the alliance between blacksmithing arts and political kingship in central Africa. Each nkishi, often named after a renowned chief, had its own power, identity, and individual reputation. Sculptures became known for their accomplishments, closely tied to the lives of the religious leaders and traditional healers who were their expert owners and operators.

Credit

Fred and Rita Richman Collection