Bakongo Peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Materials: wood, nails, glass, kaolin (clay), twine
H: 25 inches W; 7 inches
Circa: Early 20th century
This imposing figure, with its aggressive stance and nail-stippled surface belongs to a group of objects called Minkisi N'kondi (singular nkisi n'kondi) endowed with healing power. It has multi-functional powers; they serve as representative of a chief, doctor, priest and judge at the same time.
Under the care of spiritual priest, oaths are sworn, trials are held before this figure. All vows are rendered and binding by hammering of nails into the figure's surface. Each nail driven into nkisi n'kondi signifies an act of ritual commitment.