Exhibitions: African Innovations

Power Figure

While Western collectors value the visual impact of power figures, the ultimate importance of these sculptures to the Songye lies in their effectiveness as protectors of the community from malevolent forces and disease. The power of such figures depends on their magical ingredients (bishimba), concealed in the abdominal cavity, in the top of the head, or in a horn set into the cranium (missing from this piece). These hidden substances acquire potency and interact with the spirit world when assembled according to a precise formula by the nganga, or ritual practitioner.