Lot: 308

95th Tribal Art Auction

Male power figure "nkisi" or memorial figure, before 1914

D. R. Congo, Yombe

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Julius Gerberding, Saarbrücken, Germany (ca. 1920)
H: 14.2 inch sold

wood, glass, paint, partly painted over, cracks, rest., base What is unusual about this figure is the large head and the intense gaze from glazed eyes with painted pupils, which captivates the viewer at first sight. The figure's body is almost totally devoid of decoration, instead relying on its sculptural dynamism. The figure is carved with arm rings and wears a cap-like headgear "mpu". Her sitting posture with crossed legs "funda nkata" is a sign of respect. The gesture of the hand raised up to the chin is associated by the people of the Congo with a person who acts prudently, who only expresses his opinion after careful consideration. All these are indications that this figure represents a person of high rank and dignity, probably a tribal chief. Below the chest there is a square depression which originally contained magical charges or the relics of an ancestor. Depending on the case, the figure was used for magical spells or was a commemorative figure for a certain, particularly revered ancestor.

Felix, Marc L. (ed.), Kongo Kingdom Art, China 2003, p. 292, ill. 8,24