Collections: Arts of Africa: Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi)

  • 1st Floor
    Arts of Africa, Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden
  • 2nd Floor
    Arts of Asia and the Islamic World
  • 3rd Floor
    Egyptian Art, European Paintings
  • 4th Floor
    Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
  • 5th Floor
    Luce Center for American Art

On View: Emblem of the Leopard Spirit Society (Nkpa)

An nkpa is an emblem associated with a particular level of the Ngbe, a major men’s society that regulates social behavior among the Ej...

Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Hiroshige's 118 woodblock landscape and genre scenes of mid-nineteenth-century Tokyo, is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese art.


Want to add this object to a set? Please join the Posse, or log in.


22.1421_threequarter_PS1.jpg 22.1421_side_SL4.jpg CONS.22.1421_2007_xrs_detail01.jpg CONS.22.1421_2007_xrs_detail02.jpg 22.1421_profile_PS1.jpg CUR.22.1421_print_front_bw.jpg 22.1421_glass_bw.jpg 22.1421_SL1.jpg 22.1421_side_bw.jpg 22.1421_threequarter_bw.jpg 22.1421_detail_acetate_bw.jpg 22.1421_view4_acetate_bw.jpg 22.1421_view5_acetate_bw.jpg

Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi)

African art is conceptual art. In both form and use, it reveals sophisticated systems of knowledge, but rarely directly. These two seemingly unrelated works express hidden and poignant ideas about security and liberty.

An nkisi nkondi embodies defensive power and was used to protect a community. To complete this sculpture, a ritual expert placed potent ingredients associated with supernatural powers in the cavity carved into the figure’s abdomen. Nails and blades activated the spirit that was now accessible through the figure. This nkisi's pose, with hands on hips, symbolizes its readiness to defend the righteous and to destroy enemies.

In Viyé Diba's work, the piece of painted yellow wood, projecting between the seams of the woven canvas, and the abstract forms that suggest fleeing figures at the top evoke the possibility of liberation—from the literal plane of the canvas, from the strictures of painting and sculpture, or, perhaps, from the history of the city of Dakar itself, the site of a former way station in the trade of human captives. Diba's art is composed entirely of materials he found walking around Dakar.

This text refers to these objects: ' 22.1421; 2011.30

  • Culture: Kongo (Kakongo subgroup)
  • Medium: Wood, iron, glass mirror, resin, pigment
  • Possible Place Made: Kongo Central Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Dates: 19th century
  • Dimensions: 33 7/8 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. (86 x 34.9 x 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
  • Collections:Arts of Africa
  • Museum Location: This item is on view in Double Take Installation, East Gallery, 1st Floor
  • Exhibitions:
  • Accession Number: 22.1421
  • Credit Line: Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
  • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
  • Caption: Kongo (Kakongo subgroup). Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi), 19th century. Wood, iron, glass mirror, resin, pigment, 33 7/8 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. (86 x 34.9 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1421. Creative Commons-BY
  • Image: side, profile, 22.1421_profile_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
  • Catalogue Description: Image of a man, stuck with nails and knives. Mirror in navel. Free carved feet standing on a block. Hands at hips. Stained white in most parts. Four flat pronged high headdress. Open mouth with teeth and tongue showing. Bracelets around biceps. Condition: Good
  • Record Completeness: Best (91%)
advanced 110,591 records currently online.

Separate each tag with a space: painting portrait.

Or join words together in one tag by using double quotes: "Brooklyn Museum."

Recent Comments
22:30 04/3/2009
I think this object IS on view.
11:17 04/14/2009
Many thanks - we had a small backlog in location changes which has now been fixed.

Please review the comment guidelines before posting.

Before you comment...

We get a lot of comments, so before you post yours, check to see if your issue is addressed by one of the questions below. Click on a question to see our answer:

Why are some objects not on view?

The Museum’s permanent collections are very large and only a fraction of these can be on exhibition at any given time. Sometimes works are lent to other museums for special exhibitions; sometimes they are in the conservation laboratory for study or maintenance. Certain types of objects, such as watercolors, textiles, and photographs, are sensitive to light and begin to fade if they are exposed for too long, so their exhibition time is limited. Finally, as large as the Museum is, there is not enough room to display everything in the collections. In order to present our best works, collections are rotated periodically.

How do I find out how much an object in the Brooklyn Museum collections is worth?

The Museum does not disclose the monetary values of objects in its collections.

Can you tell me the value of an artwork that I own?

The Museum does not provide monetary appraisals. To determine the value of an object or to find an appraiser, you may contact the Art Dealers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers.

I own a similar object. Can you tell me more about it?

Please submit via e-mail a photograph of the object you own and as much information about it as you can, and we will provide any additional information we are able to find. Please note that research in our files is a lengthy process, and you may not have a response for some time.

How would I go about lending or gifting a work to the Museum or seeing if the Museum is interested in purchasing a work that I own?

Please submit via e-mail a photograph of the object you would like us to consider, as well as all of the information you have about it, and your offer will be forwarded to the appropriate curator. The Brooklyn Museum collections are very rich, and we have many works that are not currently on exhibition; because of this, and because storage space is limited, we are very selective about adding works. However, the collection has become what it is today through the generosity of the public, and we continue to be grateful for this generosity, which can still lead to exciting new acquisitions.

How can I get a reproduction of a work in your collection?

Please see the Museum’s information on Image Services.

How can I show my work to someone at the Museum or be considered for an exhibition?

Please see the Museum’s Artist Submission Guidelines.

Why do many objects not have photographs and/or complete descriptions?

The Museum's collection is very large, and we are constantly in the process of adding photographs and descriptions to works that do not currently have them, or replacing photographs that have deteriorated beyond use and descriptions that are minimal or out of date. This is a long and expensive process that takes time.

How can I find a conservator or get advice on how to treat my artwork?

Please visit the American Institute for Conservation, which has a feature on how to find a conservator.

I have a comment or question which is not included in this list.

Join the posse or log in to work with our collections. Your tags, comments and favorites will display with your attribution.