Power figure (nkishi)

20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


60.96 cm (24 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, metal, fiber, leather, beads, skin

On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



Songye power figures known as minkishi range from small, privately owned images to such large community guardians such as this expressive work. They are periodically brought forth and consecrated by the nganga (ritual specialist), who charges the potency of the medicinal-sacrosanct substances packed inside or appended to them. This massive elevated figure is festooned with metal facial attachments, necklaces of beads and skins, a wooden truncheon like pestle, and metal edging of the navel and cranial cavities. The work was brought to Belgium before 1918 by M. Reisdorf, envoy to Belgian Congo, and retained in the family collection.


Before 1918, acquired in the Belgian Congo by M. Reisdorf, envoy to King Albert I, and passed by descent within his family, Belgium. April 4, 1989, sold by Marc Leo Felix (dealer), Brussels, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 26, 1994 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel