African Tribal Art: Bakongo People, Congo/Zaire: Large Nkisi Fetish/Power Figure of a Seated Dog. The carving is estimated to be from the late 19th century, with additions and modifications dating through the 20th century. The dog's head has a smooth patina which contrasts sharply to the rough surface of its body. Carved wood, partially sheathed in metal, with glass eyes. Cloth-covered medicinal bundles with unknown contents at the neck and hind. There is a raised, glass-covered Minkisi receptacle on its back, with unknown contents. A copious amount of iron nails and iron triangular blades adorn the torso and the top of the head, where a rock is encircled by a cage of bent nails. The legs and vase show insect damage, which could have extended to the right foreleg, which is sheathed in metal.
Dogs are closely tied to the spiritual world in Kongo mythology. They live in two separate worlds; the village of the living, and the forest of the dead. Minkisi is a term referring to therapeutic substances chosen for their attributes and believed ability to aid in specific situations. The metal objects commonly pounded into the surface of the power figures represent the minkisis' active roles during ritual or ceremony. Each nail or metal piece represents a vow, a signed treaty, and efforts to abolish evil.
Private Collection, Massachusetts, Private Collection, New York
Insect damage, rust, abrasions, wood loss at base, other indications of age.
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