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Object Name: Power figure (nkisi)
Culture: Yombe peoples
Place of Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date/Era: 18th-19th century
Medium/Materials: Wood, camwood, pigment, mirror, fiber, metal, chain
Dimensions: H: 26.5 cm, W: 22.0 cm, D: 17.0 cm (H: 10.4 in, W: 8.6 in, D: 6.7 in)
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Accession Number: X67.879
Among Yombe peoples, many of life’s hardships can be negotiated through ownership of a power figure that serves as a defense against misfortune. Such figures act as armatures for a vast array of articles that include objects from the natural world and manufactured products. These accumulations were added by a healer who alone knew the secret composition of medicinal herbs, roots, plants, and animal parts that would give the figures their power.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.