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Unidentified Yombe artists, Power Figure (Nkisi N’kondi), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Cabinda, Angola, 19th–early 20th century. Wood, iron, cloth, mirror, leopard tooth, fiber, and porcelain. Yale University Art Gallery, Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Olav Bjornerud, Conservation Pre-Program Intern (left), and James Green, the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Assistant Curator of African Art, examine the knotted textile chains from the Power Figure (Nkisi N’kondi) under a microscope.

January 31, 2020

Technical Analysis of a Kongo Power Figure

Gallery conservators conducted a technical examination of a Power Figure (Nkisi N’kondi), a masterpiece of the Yale University Art Gallery collection. Made in the 19th to the early 20th century and attributed to the Yombe group of the Kongo peoples of West Central Africa, the work was carved by a professional sculptor as a container for bilongo, medicines composed of a secret combination of animal, plant, and mineral substances.