Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Songye Absctract Figure Nkishi Congo African Art Collection

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Title Songye Absctract Figure Nkishi Congo African Art Collection
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of Congo
People Songye
Materials Wood, beads, feathers, raffia, animal skin, pigment
Approximate Age Mid 20th Century
Dimensions Height: 24 Inches
Width: 11 Inches
Depth: 7 Inches
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.

Additional Information: 

This well used figure comes from the Songye with overtones of other styles evident. The Songye live on the left bank of the Lualaba River in an area of savanna crossed by numerous major river systems. They have a long history of migration and cultural interchange with the Hemba, Kuba, Tetela, Luluwa and especially with the Luba from whom they are said to have originated. Magical beliefs and practice are widespread among the Songye people who use figures such as this on family or village altars where they contact the spirits of ancestors, nature spirits, and where offerings and prayers are given. Power figures among the Songye are known as nkishi (mankishi) while the same  figure is commonly called a ‘fetish’ when placed in Western collections with misplaced implications. Whereas Songye buanga figures are dedicated to positive ends early Europeans visitors saw them as ‘false gods – feticios to the Portuguese so that today Westerners call them ‘fetishes’!  


From the Collection of Robert Pearson, Denver, Colorado


Bob Pearson began collecting African art later in his life.  He was a n engineer, inveterate climber, and long-time collector of books and paintings.  Spurred by the Douglas Society at the Denver Museum of Art, and his friendship with noted collector George Heggarty, he began building an enormous, eclectic collection. His African art library grew to several hundred books.  He loved textiles and “material culture”-things which had domestic use, like spoons, cups, stools, and chairs, as well as masks and carvings.  His collection included items from more than thirty African countries, and his fine eye gave him pieces ranging from a golddust scale to huge Dogon figural ladders.  Africa Direct is honored to have been chosen to sell them.