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A South Eastern Congo, Zaire Songye Protective Fetish Figure Nkishi of Geometric Form the arms placed to the side.

A plug of fetish material in the head cavity a strip of old hide and fur around the waist.
Old smooth crusted patination.
19th Century – Early 20th Century.

The face of this protective figure is typical of the strong angularity of Songye carving.  Amongst the Songye ‘Nkishi’ were associated with a magico-religious society known as ‘bukisi’ which controlled initiation camps and circumcision ceremonies. A shaman would ritually add magical substances ‘bashimba’ to activate the figure as a source of power that would give protection and ensure well-being. Larger figures ensured the tranquillity of the whole community and promoted village fecundity and fertility.  Smaller personal or family ‘Nkishi’ were used for protection against illness, sorcery, witchcraft, and war and to promote fertility. Due to their considerable powers the figures were considered dangerous and so they were manoeuvred by means of rods or sticks attached to their arms. They were sometimes made to walk as if on parade.

These small half figures were not always used as personal protective devices, but were placed in gourd bowls and used by diviners to communicate with the supernatural world. These divinatory calabash were filled with a number of symbolic objects such as chicken claws, teeth, stones, seeds, etc., as well as carved wooden figures. The Songye’s ritual use of calabash can be compared with the baskets used by the Tshokwe.

Provenance:
Ex English Private collection.
Acquired 1950s.
Ex Finch and Co, catalogue number 22, Summer 2014.
Ex Private collection.

cf: ‘Kilengi, African Art from the Bareiss Family Collection’ C.D. Roy; University of Iowa, Exhibition in 2000, No’s 111, 114 and 115.

Dimensions

Size: 20cm high – 8 ins high / 29.5cm high, 11½ ins high (including stand) 

Price on application





By appointment only

The BADA Standard

  • Since 1918, BADA has been the leading association for the antiques and fine art trade
  • Members are elected for their knowledge, integrity and quality of stock
  • Our clients are protected by BADA’s code of conduct
  • Our dealers’ membership is reviewed and renewed annually
  • Bada.org is a non-profit site: clients deal directly with members and they pay no hidden fees
Click here for more information on the BADA Standard