Two-Headed Nkisi Figure, from the Bacongo people, Democratic Republic of Congo, late 20th Century. Made of wood, pigments, fabric, glass nails and natural elements. 11.75 inches high.
Good aged condition with mild patina and signs of handling.
A nkisi (plural: minkisi) is loosely translated as a "spirit" yet it is represented as a container of sacred substances which are activated by supernatural forces that can be summoned into the physical world. This nkisi has a container for such elements in its torso. The glass covering represents the otherworldly use of its contents.
The representation of two heads, with each painted in two colors, shows that the nkisi can see into the world of spirits as well as seeing the living world.
A Nkisi nkondi (power figure) is a magical charm carved in the likeness of human being, meant to highlight its function in human affairs. A nkisi nkondi can be used to resolve verbal disputes or lawsuits (mambu) as well as to be an avenger (the term nkondi means ‘hunter’) or guardian if sorcery or any form of evil has been committed.
Minkisi are carved under the divine authority and in consultation with an nganga or spiritual specialist. The nganga activates the figures through the insertion of nails, chanting, praying and the preparation of sacred substances which are aimed at ‘curing’ physical, social or spiritual ailments.