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Thenkisi is a spirit from the world of the dead. By extension, it is the name given to the sculptures anticipated for use by man to gain hold of a spirit from the beyond, then employing it for terrestrial aims. Historically, there were two types of nkisi, public and private, with some having vital democratizing roles, as sources of empowerment for rural residents and individuals outside the court. In order to face certain trials (illness, conflict, sterility, sorcery, etc), the Kongo take recourse in this type of object. Thus they attempt to resolve their problem, or to intimidate or punish the individual responsible for it. As one source says, the nkisi is "a hiding place for people's souls, to keep and compose in order."The body of the fetish is covered by nails driven into its surface; these objects mark each appeal made to the spirit embodied in it.
Provenance: Raskin Private Collection
Just finished acting as a prop in a major motion picture about P.T. Barnum. The film "Greatest Showman on Earth" starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams will be released Dec 2017.