Community Power Figure (Nkishi)

19th century

African Art

On view, 1st floor, African Art

Power figures could range in size from small and portable to over three feet in height. The size of the nkishi depended on whether it served the needs of an individual, a household, or an entire village. Parts of animals attached to the figure–such as the claws and bones of a leopard or lion, earth from the tracks of an elephant, the skin of a snake, or the feathers of a hawk–would endow the nkishi with the physical power of these animals.


Wood, leather, brass, feathers, animal fur, lizard skin, animal claws, glass beads, cotton cloth, fiber, and encrustation


49 × 14 3/8 × 14 3/8 in. (124.5 × 36.5 × 36.5 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg, collected in Cabinda, 1959. Pace Gallery, New York, to Apr. 20, 1977. Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1977–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, "Tradition is Always Now," African Arts 45, no.1 (2012): 5, fig. 6.
  • Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 71,79, 149, fig. 14, 23.
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University," African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): 46–47, fig. 20.
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222, 224, ill.
  • Richard Barnes, "Objects of Desire," Yale Alumni Magazine (September/October 2004): 34, ill.
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

figures (representations), sculpture

Technical metadata and APIs


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