Nkisi nkondi, Kongo power figure

Unknown Kongo artistbefore 1923

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada

This figure was acquired by the museum in 1924 and collected some time before along the Angolan coast. Carved in wood often in the shape of a human figure, the nkisi was a central element of Kongo religion. Nkisi is a receptacle of powerful forces from the otherworld that were invoked by a ritual specialist (nganga) to protect individuals and communities, to punish enemies and evil doers and to resolve problems and conflicts. The nails and blades driven through the body of the figure are the means through which its power was activated, and the many embedded in this figure are a clear sign of a very active career. In the first decades of the 1900s, due to the expansion of Christian missions and the development of local prophetic churches of Christian inspiration many power figures were destroyed, deactivated and sold to western collectors.


  • Title: Nkisi nkondi, Kongo power figure
  • Creator: Unknown Kongo artist
  • Date: before 1923
  • Location: Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
  • Physical Dimensions: h64 cm
  • Provenance: Gift of the Members of the Royal Ontario Museum
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Royal Ontario Museum
  • Medium: Wood, metal, glass, mirror
  • Culture: Kongo
  • Accession Number: HA847

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