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Divination Torso Figure (Nkishi)

Arts of Africa

On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor

Magical specialists called banganga use sculptures such as this male half figure known as a mukishi as devices for protection and divination. A mukishi is infused with magical substances drawn from the wild, which activate the spirit force of the object. This figure derives its power from a small medicinal charge in the cranium, a "skirt" of monkey fur, a tiny horn worn on the right arm as an amulet, and a small gourd filled with magical substances, as well as from its sacrificial coating of palm oil.

CULTURE Zimba
MEDIUM Wood, fur, cord, horn, gourd, metal, palm oil
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 7 3/4 x 4 x 5 1/2 in. ( 19.7 x 10.2 x14.0 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
ACCESSION NUMBER 1996.21
CREDIT LINE Gift of The Roebling Society in memory of Sylvia Williams
RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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CAPTION Zimba. Divination Torso Figure (Nkishi), 19th century. Wood, fur, cord, horn, gourd, metal, palm oil, 7 3/4 x 4 x 5 1/2 in. ( 19.7 x 10.2 x14.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society in memory of Sylvia Williams, 1996.21. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE 3/4, 1996.21_threequarter_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The main portion of the object consists of a carved human effigy. Stylized features of face, beard, hairdo and torso. Earholes have been drilled on both sides of the head. Another hole on top of the head has been filled with unknown material. The p. right arm is wrapped with cordage which runs through a small horn and ties it to the arm. Another length of cord runs around the waist and through a small gourd bound to the back. Below this the object has been wrapped with a piece of hide, most of its fur still intact. It is tied at the back The wood, cord, horn and gourd have been coated with an oil/resin material. Condition: good and stable. The wood shows some cracking; the hide is generally brittle. The surface is dusty overall.
RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (89%)
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