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Very rare and large ritual jar of the Bakongo people

Very rare and large ritual jar of the Bakongo people

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: African: Sculpture: Pre 1910: Item # 1315593

Please refer to our stock # 0268 when inquiring.
Momoyama Gallery
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Richard van Norten - by appointment
Avenue Royal - Luxembourg / Europe


We like to offer you a very unique and rare Bakongo statue with 4 faces built as a jar.

It is made of high quality wood around 1900. It is part of the van Norten Tribal Art Collection and has been collected by the founder of the Momoyama Gallery in the 1950ies.

The protrusion in the belly is said to contain magical elements, giving the sculpture its power.

This jar belongs to any category of power figures (nkisi) serving for individual protection and well-being. Most were used for fortune-telling and warding off evil spirits.

Power figures designed as a jar are a rarity.

Size: 44 cm height - weight 1,4 kg

Shipping included.

The religious history of the Kongo is complex, thanks to the long engagement of the Kingdom of Kongo with Christianity and the flexible nature of religious concepts in general in an area without a scriptural tradition. According to historian John K. Thornton 'Central Africans have probably never agreed among themselves as to what their cosmology is' because of the presence of 'continuous revelation' by which theological ideas were formed by a 'constant stream of revelations that was not under the control of a priesthood who enforced orthodoxy, but instead was interpreted individually within a community of belief.'

Since the late nineteenth century, European and American missionaries, European, American and Kongo anthropologists and other Kongo thinkers and writers have increasingly solidified an idea of what are the foundations of what can be called traditional Kongo religion. In this conception, believers stress the importance of ancestors, as most of the inhabitants of the other world are held to have once lived in this world. Only Nzambi a Mpungu, the name for the high god, is usually held to have existed outside the world and to have created it. Other categories of the dead include bakulu or ancestors (the souls of the recently departed). In addition, there are more powerful beings who are considered as guardians of particular places, such as mountains, river courses, springs and districts, called simbi (pl. bisimbi). These beings are sometimes regarded as the souls of the long departed, the first inhabitant or eternal beings. Finally there are those who inhabit and are captured in minkisi (singular nkisi), or charms, whose operation is the closest to magic. The value of these supernatural operations is generally held to be in the intentions of the worker, rather than the other world having spirits or souls that are intrinsically good or bad.

However, some anthropologists studying modern Kikongo speaking people point out that there are sharp regional differences not only in terminology but even such important concepts as the role of ancestors. According to Dunja Hersak, for example, the Vili and Yombe do not believe in the power of ancestors in the same degree as to those living farther south. Furthermore, she points out, following the lead of another anthropologist, John Janzen, that religious ideas and emphasis in the same sector have changed over time.

Following the conversion of Nzinga Nkuwu in 1491 most of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Kongo converted to Christianity, though they continued their older beliefs within its fold, through syncretic practices within the Roman Catholic Church in Kongo. This syncretic form of Christianity was often contested by missionaries, and spawned one messianic movement, led by D Beatriz Kimpa Vita from 1704 to 1706. Many thousands of Kongo were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas, and especially to Brazil. The Afro-Brazilian Quimbanda religion is a new world manifestation of Bantu religion and spirituality, and Kongo Christianity played a role in the formation of Voudou in Haiti. Other Kongo living outside the Kingdom of Kongo were not converted and continued their traditional form of religion however, and it was not until the late nineteenth century that missionaries entered the areas north of the Kingdom of Kongo. Since the 1880s Protestant missionaries, and then renewed Catholic missionaries have claimed a large number of Kongo as converts. Following 1921, a new form of Christianity preached by Simon Kimbangu became extremely popular in spite of the attempts of both Belgian and Portuguese governments to suppress it. Kimbanguism is a very powerful religious spiritual force today, as is one of its modern spin-offs, the Dibundu dia Kongo led by Mwanda Nsemi.