N’kondi and voodoo fetishes

Posted by Tamsin Wilde on

Nkisi or N’kondi statues are what is known as a fetish doll, found in West Africa and the Central Congo region of Africa. Fetishism, in relation to anthropology, is used to describe the process where a certain social group or individual places upon an object certain powers or values taking it from a mundane item to one of a spiritual, cultural or social value. With the case of N’kondi, these are carved wooden dolls, ranging in height and size, and indeed appearance and is placed either inside, or outside the home. Once the doll is created, for every wish for protection, or indeed harm against another individual a nail is driven into the doll’s body. Totemic substances known as Bilongo are often held within the head or body of the doll, these ranging from tribe to tribe but can consist of things along the lines of plants, herbs, parts of animals or water from sacred locations amongst others. These sections are covered with glass or a mirror so that the spirits of the dead can basically, come and have a look through and have a good look. Chicken blood and other liquids are then poured over the doll creating an incrustation. These dolls are known for their pungent, smoky odour (If I’m honest, I kind of like the smell. It’s like a woodsmoke jerky smell. I can’t deny it makes me a little hungry.) and people often state they sense a malevolent ambience – However, not all N’kondi are malevolent. Up until the 20th century, these dolls were frequently encountered, but many seized by missionaries as evidence of sorcery, but they are the origin of dolls used in voodoo rituals.


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