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Yombe (Bayombe, Mayombe, Mayumba, Yumbe), Democratic Republic of the Congo

Nail fetish (nkisi nkondi). The Yombe people live in the Lower Zaire River, the region very important in the artistic history of Black Africa. The country that the Yombe inhabit is covered by forest. The nail fetish is one of the best-known types of statues in this region. Nkisi means “medicine.” An nkisi nkondi is made by a sculptor and a nganga (ritual expert) working together. The sculptor carves a nude male figure. Next the nganga completes the figure by placing ingredients that have positive or negative powers in a cavity made by the sculptor. These magical objects can be sand, roots or leaves. A nail fetish may be used for many purposes. For example, upon concluding peace between two warring villages, representatives from both sides would first take an oath before the nkisi nkondi, and then each party would hammer a nail or iron wedges into a figure. Or the nail could be driven into the figure to activate its magical powers.

Material:  wood, nails, rope

Size:   H. 24”, W. 11”, D. 7”