|Songye Tribe, D.R. Congo|
Among the Songye, figural sculptures, like this nail fetish nkishi, are instruments used to bring good fortune, protect, heal, and counteract evil. While a carver produces the wooden figure, a ritual specialist, nganga, adds a multitude of substances and objects that give nkishi its power and enhance its visual impact. Richly personal nkishis like this are imbued with an individualized identity, given a name, and treated as an individual.
This is a powerful, emotive sculpture, with outstanding provenance, that successfully conveys the nature of the term nkishi, a meaning that implies power beyond itself, which can transmit energy, settle conflicts and disputes, and emit power that can be used for meeting and overcoming the most challenging of objectives. The face has a “grittiness” from being 100-plus years old and having undergone oil and libation application, but there is vulnerability in the figure that leaves one both with an emotional feeling and understanding that it offers us something that is hard to capture.
The object has a layer of pigment stain and other oils and natural materials which were applied to the figure in its indigenous context. The purpose of this application was to charge the figure with power or energy. All of these have specific functions that are known by those who practice the ritual within the tribe itself. A horn tip has been embedded into the top of the head, which is extremely sharp, sharper than most one will see in most nkishi examples. Viewed from the side, the figure shows a zig-zag design, with the belly (center of power) protruding. The figure is delightfully expressive. The age of the piece is significant, as most of these figures came out of Africa in the mid to late 19th century. Per our records, this figure was collected en situ in 1940.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood, nails, oils, horn tip, stain, magical substances|
|Dimensions: 9” 22.86 cm (h), 3” 7.62 cm (w), 7.62 (d)|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art|
Literature:“Art and Power in the Central African Savanna”: Luba, Songye, Chokwe, Luluwa, Petridis, Constantine
“Ancestors of Congo Square: African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art”, Fagaly, William A.
“Songye: The Formidable Statuary of Central Africa”, Neyt, Francois
“African Fetishes and Ancestral Objects”, Neyt, François
About the Songye Tribe:
During the 16th century, the Songye migrated from the Shaba area, which is now the southern part of the D.R. Congo, and settled on the left bank of the Lualaba River, on a savannah and forest-covered plateau. Divided into numerous sub-groups, the 150,000 Songye people are governed by a central chief, the Yakitenge, whose role demands that he obey special restrictive laws, such as not showing grief, not drinking in public, and not shaking hands with men. In addition, local rulers, the Sultani Ya Muti, distribute plots of land to their villagers and an influential secret society, Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe, counterbalances their power. Unlike their neighbors, the Luba, the Songye tribe is a patriarchal society in which agriculture is central to the economy (Ref: Bacquart, "Tribal Arts of Africa"; Meyer, "Art and Craft in Africa").
|Provenance: Ex. Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels (certificate of provenance/authenticity and acquisition history included); Ex. Collection Bertrand, Brussels, field collected in 1940|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
Item has been sold.
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