Dimensions: H= 19 cm. or 27 cm on its wood custom-made stand, L=7 cm, D= 8 cm.
Provenance: Carlo Bold collection, Antwerp.
Estimated age: end XIXth or early XXth.
The Bakongo people are an ethnic group from the Congo Basin region of central Africa. They have a rich cultural heritage, including a complex system of religious beliefs and practices that involve the use of nkisi (power objects) to communicate with the spirit world.
One type of nkisi that the Bakongo use is a small figure with a mirror in its belly and eyes. This figure is typically carved from wood and is decorated with metal and offer remains. It usually measures around 10-20 cm in height. This one is on the bigger size for personal use.
The figure is known as a nkondi, which means “hunter” or “hunter of wrongs,” and it is believed to have the power to track down and punish wrongdoers. The mirror in its belly is said to allow it to see into the hearts of people and to reveal any evil or malicious intentions they may have. The eyes of the figure are made of mirror, and they are thought to help the nkondi to see clearly in the spiritual realm.
In Bakongo belief, a nkondi figure must be activated by a ritual specialist, who will invoke the spirit of the nkisi and ask it to help with a specific problem or situation. The figure may be given offerings of food or drink as part of the ritual, and it may be used to curse or punish someone who has committed a crime or wrongdoing.
Nkisi figure, an object only becomes an nkisi when it is filled with medicines (bilongo) and a spirit resides in the object.
An nkondi figure (meaning ‘hunter'; also called nkonde, pl. minkondi) is considered to be the most powerful sub-type of nkisi figures. Villagers turn to nkondi figures to identify and in some cases, kill unknown wrongdoers such as thieves, witches and others who have turned to malevolent spirits to cause misfortune, sickness or death to others. It is believed that the nkondi maintain order in the society.
The Kongo kingdom was discovered by Portuguese sailors who arrived off the coast of the Kongo kingdom in 1483 in search of political and commercial alliances.
References: Imo Dara