Spirit Embodiments

By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kongo artist

Nkisi (power figure)

Wood, iron

H. 102.8 cm (40 1/2")

Indiana University Art Museum, 77.29

One of the most common ways of making spirits accessible to humans is to capture, entice, or combine spirit forces in containers. When activated, these medicine containers are endowed with supernatural powers that can be used in healing processes. Composed of medicinally-charged and metaphoric materials, such as mirrors, horns, teeth, claws, leathers, clay, or cloth, the object is filled with a vitality and power of its own.