Female Nkisi Figure

Vili peoples

Democratic Republic of Congo

Female Nkisi Figure, Early–mid-20th century

  • On View

Wood

Dimensions: 8 1/4 × 3 1/4 × 2 3/4 in. (21 × 8.3 × 7 cm)

Museum purchase with funds from the Collection Endowment, 2015.66

This powerful sculpture likely belonged to a ritual specialist who used it as a tool to control and contain a spiritual force. The force was drawn to the figure when various medicines were packed on the figure’s abdomen. The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo used Nkisi sculptures for centuries as tools for curing illness, punishing criminals, combating witchcraft, or solving other problems. The specific form that a Nkisi takes is less important than the medicine created for its use, but the visual impact of a skillfully rendered figure such as this object adds to its ritual power.

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