Kongo / Yombe Nkisi Power Figure Chewing Munkwisa Root, DRC / Zaire #299

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  • Kongo / Yombe Nkisi Power Figure Chewing Munkwisa Root, DRC / Zaire #299
  • A carved wooden Figure shown chewing on the root of a Hallucinogenic Plant named Munkwisa.
  • A number of Kongo Power Objects show the Figure chewing on a root. This is an action that appears on numerous depictions of Monarchs and Chiefs, and indicates a form of Impartial Justice aided by the Munkwiza Root (Costus Lucanusianus) that could Detect Witches and Defy Death. It was an Insignia of Rule, indicating continuous Growth and Revival, and was included as an ingredient in the Ruler’s Nkisi of Investiture. When he pointed it at someone, they would swell up and die, so this Nkisi‘s use Munkwiza is likely linked to his powers to harm and the ability to identify Witchcraft. From: THE BRIGHT CONTINENT: AFRICAN ART HISTORY
  • Magic Statuettes are named in Kikongo (Kikongo is one of the Bantu languages spoken by the Kongo people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Angola and Gabon) as Nkisi.
  • A Nkisi Nkondi can act as an Oath Taking object, which is used to resolve verbal disputes or lawsuits (mambu) as well as an Avenger (the term Nkondi means 'Hunter') or Guardian, if Sorcery or any form of Evil has been committed.
  • Nkisis are Spirits of the Earth. They are materialized in Nature by rocks, marshes, ravines; by Objects: anthropomorphic or zoomorphic statuettes; and by Packages or Containers: mirror, calabash, bottle, jar, basket, etc.
  • Magical Figurines only have value and power if they are Consecrated by the Naganga: a Kikongo language term for Herbalist or Spiritual Healer or Shaman.
  • The Naganga adds diverse magical ingredients to the Figures that are generally stored in a resinous impasto, a kind of Reliquaries closed by a Mirror with Magical Properties.
  • To be effective, the Invocation to the Nkisi must be accompanied by Incantations and Sacrifices. On this occasion, the Statue is marked with red lines of tukula powder that symbolize the Transition; as well as white clay mpezo or mpemba which is the color of the world of the dead and gives the ability to see Sorcerers.
  • Kongo Magic Statuettes protect Villages, ward off disease, ensure that prohibitions are observed, ensure Success for the Hunter and the Warrior, appease discord and reconcile enemies, prevent torrential rains, detect thieves and sorcerers, help the diviner in his office, protect the pregnancy and the child. 
  • Age: Mid 20th Century or earlier.
  • Measurements: 20×5×5 cm; approx. 8" x 2" x 2"
  • Condition: Fine
  •  Provenance: collection of James Faxon, Birmingham, MI & NYC. Creator of the Michigan Council for the Arts.
  • Brian's Note: Rich coffee color patina is beautiful. Overall a great small Masterwork; well worn, old and authentic.

  • Origin is DRC / Zaire