Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi)
Arts of Africa
ART OF IDEAS
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.
Wood, iron, glass mirror, resin, pigment
33 7/8 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. (86 x 34.9 x 27.9 cm) (show scale)
This item is not on view
Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
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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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.1421_threequarter_PS1.jpg)
3/4, 22.1421_threequarter_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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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.
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