African Art

Power Figure (Nkisi)

early 20th century

Wood, iron, cloth, fiber, encrustation, and mirror (eyes are recent replacement)

20 × 10 7/8 × 6 7/8 in. (50.8 × 27.62 × 17.46 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The figure was collected in the early twentieth century by the Belgian protestant missionary Léo Bittremieux and was formerly in the collection of the Royal African Museum in Tervuren, Belgium. In 1974 it was deaccessioned, and at some point while on the art market, the eyes were replaced. Bittremieux described the piece as ziengie, one who lets blood flow in streams.
Cabinda, Angola
or geography Democratic Republic of the Congo
or geography Republic of the Congo
Not on view
20th century

Collected by Pere L. Bittremieux and acquired by Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (MRAC), Tervuren, Belgium: in 1932 ( EO.0.0.33943), de-accessioned in 1974
Anuschka & Harvey Menist, Haarlem, Holland, unknown date-August 7, 1977
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 83, fig. 46.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

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), 309, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.