power figure

Central African power figures are among the best known examples of African sculpture. A power figure is a magic charm carved in the likeness of a human being. Power figures were created collaboratively by sculptors and ritual specialists, who activated them through chants, prayers and the preparation of substances aimed at curing physical, social or spiritual ailments. These substances could be hidden in the figure’s head and in its abdomen. Power figures are recognizable by the many blades, nails and other sharp objects inserted into them. This feature is related to the function of power figures as oath-taking images: over time, sharp objects were added in order to energize the power figure, reminding its spirit of specific oaths. Web resource here.

power figurePower figure (Nkisi N’Kondi Mangaaka). Kongo peoples, Yombe group. Wood, iron, resin, ceramic, plant fiber, textile, pigment. 19th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.