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NKISI NKONDI : AFRICAN POWER FIGURES

Nkondi (plural varies minkondi, zinkondi, or ninkondi) are religious idols made by the Kongo people of the Congo region. Nkondi are a subclass of minkisi that are considered aggressive. The name nkondi derives from the verb -konda, meaning “to hunt” and thus nkondi means “hunter” because they can hunt down and attack wrong-doers, witches, or enemies.

The primary function of a nkondi is be the home of a spirit which can travel out from its base, hunt down and harm other people. Many nkondi were publicly held and were used to affirm oaths, or to protect villages and other locations from witches or evildoers. This is achieved by enlisting spiritual power through getting them to inhabit minkisi like nkondi.

The vocabulary of nkondi has connections with Kongo conceptions of witchcraft which are anchored in the belief that it is possible for humans to enroll spiritual forces to inflict harm on others through cursing them or causing them to have misfortune, accidents, or sickness. A frequently used expression for hammering in the nails into a nkondi is “koma nloka” (to attach or hammer in a curse) derives from two ancient Bantu roots *-kom- which includes hammering in its semantic field, and *-dog- which involves witchcraft and cursing. Kindoki“, a term derived from the same root is widely associated with witchcraft, or effecting curses against others, but in fact refers to any action intended to enlist spirits to harm others. If exercised privately for selfish reasons, the use of this power is condemned as witchcraft, but if the power is used publicly by a village, tribe, political leaders, or as a protective measure by innocent people, however, it is not considered witchcraft.

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