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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Kongo, Yombe : Kongo Wooden Sculpture of a Man
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Kongo Wooden Sculpture of a Man - PF.6118
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 14" (35.6cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: UAE
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At first glance, the large truncated cylinder protruding from his belly suggests that this figure was intended to become a power object, called nkisi n’kondi. However, the figure is lacking fetish materials such as nails and blades that would have been ritualistically driven into the sculpture in order to invoke its powers. Furthermore, the magical mirror or shells generally imbedded into the belly of the nkisi is missing. Perhaps it is possible that this figure was intended to become a nkisi but was never embellished with the appropriate adornments that are the source of its power. Instead, it is more likely that the stylistic similarities are just that: similarities. Then this sculpture would represent a type associated with ancestral cults. Although there exact purpose remains uncertain, these sculptures were believed to house the spirits of ancestors. The embroidered cap he wears is a sign of high social rank identifying the man as a chief. Commemorative statuary portraying both chiefs and maternal figures symbolized a perpetuation of the lineage. Much as old photographs conjure up memories of deceased relative, so these figures serve to preserve the spirits of the ancestors. Ancestral spirits were thought to play an active role in the daily lives of a tribe, watching over and protecting their families or seeking out and punishing evildoers. Considering that only people who had a great influence on tribal life while living, such as a chief, are memorialized in sculpture, it is only natural that the forms of the figure are idealized, much like or memories of our ancestors. - (PF.6118)


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