Container for nkisi force, carved wooden statue with upraised arm, BaKongo people, west-central Africa, 1890-1910
A carved wooden figure with an upraised arm, used as a container for the nkisi force. In BaKongo belief, an ancestor or spirit is named as the nkisi force and harnessed in a container for use in healing. The threatening look of this figure shows the power of the nkisi – to seek out the cause of illness, fight it and protect from future harm. The figures become active when bilongo (medicines) are added and the ancestor or spirit enters the container.