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Child Power Figure (Nkishi)
Among the Songye, power figures, called nkishi, (plural: mankishi) are made only at the request of a cult specialist, the nganga, according to precise magico-social requirements: dimensions, wood, gender, aspect and shape of the figures.
A nganga knows what "medicines" (bishimba) a nkishi must contain in order to be a repository of offensive or defensive forces (metal pieces, seeds, beads, hide, feathers, hair, etc.). Mankishi are used by a nganga to heal illness, increase well-being and wealth, or for success in hunting.
Community power figures like this family of three, are kept by the village chief in a special shelter. They would to be taken care of at the rise of a new moon by rubbing them with tukula (a reddish cosmetic powder made from the bark of a tree, used for body and hair coloring), by palm wine libations and prayers.
Songye Child Power Figure (Nkishi), Wood, horn, iron, brass tacks, glass beads, raffia, cloth, fiber, tukula, symbolic substances
8 1/4 x 2 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches
Gifts of Dianne Komminsk in memory of LaVerne Shone