The Songye people are an ethnic group from the
central Democratic Republic of the Congo, well-
known wood carvers who are renowned for
making ceremonial masks, power figures and
other ceremonial items.
Central African “Power figures” are among the
ubiquitous genres identified with African art and
conceived to house specific mystical forces, they
were collaborative creations of Congo sculptors
and ritual specialists.
This work was the product of an intense
collaboration between a sculptor and the initiated
priest "nganga," who controlled its use in his
professional practice. After an artist completed
carving the artifact, the "nganga" transformed it
into an object capable of healing illness, settling
disputes, safeguarding the peace, and punishing
Each work of this kind or "nkisi" is associated
with a spirit, that is subjected to a degree of
human control. Nkisi are spirits, or an object that
a spirit inhabits and the term is frequently applied
to a variety of objects used throughout the Congo
Basin in Central Africa that are believed to
contain spiritual powers or spirits.
Among the many amulets and bound bundles
attached to this "nkisi" is a small bell. The bell is
believed to sound in the land of the dead and are
therefore used to call the spirit of the "nkisi."