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Creator Name: Kongo
Creator Nationality: African; Central African; Congolese
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Name-CRT: Kongo
Title: Nail Figure
View: front
Creation Start Date: 1900
Creation End Date: 1999
Creation Date: 20th century
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Fetish
Materials and Techniques: wood, natural fibers, nails
Dimensions: H.15-3/4 x W.9-3/4 x D.7-1/4 in.
AMICA Contributor: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Owner Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
ID Number: 71.3
Credit Line: The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund

In traditional Kongo villages a religious specialist, or diviner, is responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of society. He relies on the assistance of a powerful spirit that resides in sculpted wood figures, or nkisi. Nkisi are brought out for healing, for taking oaths, and to seal agreements or make legal settlements. The spirit is activated by driving nails or blades into the figure. Each blade or nail represents an oath, an agreement, or an episode in village history.

Kongo people take pride in the fairness of their legal and social system. As the legal scholar and philosopher Fu-Kiau Kia Bunseki explains, judicial procedures take place in public. "The accused is seated within the circle. Any community member is allowed to ask questions. The main goal of this is to understand social problems and conflicts and to try to find a remedy to cure him as well as the entire community." The judgment is sealed before an nkisi, with the understanding that the spirit within that figure would punish any violation of the settlement.

Component Measured: overall
Measurement Unit: in
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: ?The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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