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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Complexity, Astonishment and Power: The Visual Vocabulary of Kongo Minkisi
Author:MacGaffey, WyattISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Congo (Democratic Republic of)
ritual objects
traditional medicine
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2636628
Abstract:Nkisi (pl. minkisi) is a Kikongo word that has no near equivalent in English. 'Fetish' is a usual but inadequate translation. In the first two decades of this century, K.E. Laman collected a large number of minkisi among the Bakongo of western Zaire. The present essay is based on a study of some 40 such objects in the Laman collection of the Swedish Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm, chosen because it was possible to associate each of them with one or more texts in Kikongo, written by Bakongo at Laman's request. It intends to accept the unity of the class of minkisi and to ask what their deliberately complex and striking visual appearance has to do with their functions in healing, government, divination and the like. A nkisi in the ordinary sense was basically a container for the forces represented in it. The article describes the medicines contained in the nkisi and its appearance in context of use. Notes, ref.