|Minkondi in pairs
|WIFE OF MABYAALA.
Before 1885 BaKongo, Cabinda
Wood, glass, other materials H. 15 in. (38 cm)
Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. The Netherlands. 2668-2101
|Nkisi Mabyaala Ma Ndembe
Before 1894 - BaKongo, Loango, Congo
Wood, iron, fiber
Height 27.5 inches (70 cm)
Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. 4795
MABYAALA MA NDEMBE
In several accounts, Mabyaala ma Ndembe is mentioned as one of the most important minkisi in the coastal regions at the end of the
nineteenth century. What was it? Museums commonly show a single figure labeled nkisi so-and-so, but originally the material apparatus of an
important nkisi included a number of pieces, often a pair of statues, male and female, a bag of medicines, a number of amulets and various
other pieces of the ngangas equipment. It is possible to assemble from different museums a number of objects attributed to Mabyaala,
although they did not originally belong to the same set.
A Mabyaala in the Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam, is in the form of a male figure with crudely carved arms and with hands clasped on
the belly. The raised arm carrying a knife or spear, seen in many minkondi, is not a feature of this one. The medicine pack on the belly has
survived, but another has been lost from the top of the head. The face, strongly and carefully carved by comparison with the rest of the figure,
has been invaded by nails to a greater extent than usual. As is often the case, the figure's expression, instead of being aggressive, conveys a
serenity that contrasts with and seems to transcend the violence of the nailing.
Although the hardware is often imported, these nails seem rather to be mostly of local manufacture; BaKongo made nails from the seventeenth
century onward. The extent of splitting of the wood of the left arm suggests that many nails were inserted and later withdrawn when the
missions with which they were associated were deemed to have been accomplished. Practice in this regard varied from region to region, or
perhaps from nkondi to nkondi; the most common practice seems to have been to leave the nails in. Mabyaala is provided with his own musical
instruments in the form of basketry rattles.
An account in an 1893 Dutch missionary bulletin tells us how this Mabyaala was ultimately stolen. "This fetish was held in such high esteem
that it might only be transported in a hammock, and the Blacks obstinately refused to give it up to Europeans except for a very high price.
Later, French soldiers seized it and gave it to a traveler, who sold it to our Rotterdam friends" (Nederlandsche Zendingsvereeniging
Zendingsblaadje no. 234, November 6, 1893, 7).
From: Astonishment & Power - The Eyes of Understanding: Kongo Minkisi
|Rand African Art
Nkisi/Nkondi main page - to see more examples and additional information
CLICK HERE to go to the article
Kongo Nail Fetishes from the Chiloango River Area
By Ezio Bassani
It has a lot of additional examples and information
My comparison page I am working on
The link above will take you to a couple of pages I am working on that show bad examples of these figures and then good examples of these figures.