A very rare group of three nkisi-nkondi altar spirits carved from coquilla nuts, as nailed power figures, awakened and activated by the horseshoe nails. Carved by a Bantu living in Brazil of Kongolese descent, circa 1860. They epitomise the intensity of the Black African syncretic but little understood world of ancestors and spirits. Collection and image copyright, J. B. Hawkins Antiques. Photographer Wayne Enright. Deloraine.

Three village community Bantu nailed Kongo nkisi nkondi, power figures, the smaller, left-hand figure is mirrored, the nailed two headed back-to-back Janus dog is a not unusual late 19th century Bantu syncretic religious figure. Circa 1900. 

From the image, the Greek Janiform kantharos with the heads of an African and a Greek, of circa 480–470 B.C., to the Janiform nailed nkisi dog, or the portrait of a Wesleyan African, a remarkable voyage through time of some 2,500 years can be seen to have elapsed. They are all part of a visual legacy from an oral society that teaches the human mind to remember the stories handed down from the past. Christ nailed on the cross or a belief in the power of a 12th century British anointing spoon at a coronation spring to mind.

For the past three years I have been preparing a magnum opus on the place of the coquilla nut in Black African syncretic religious art and would be delighted to hear from collectors of coquilla nut snuff boxes that are the backbone of this complex and most interesting art form.

J. B. Hawkins Antiques
Mole Creek Road
Chudleigh TAS 7304
 By appointment onlyJohn Hawkins
M: 0419 985 965

Fine English furniture, clocks, English and Australian silver, works of art and treen. Established in Australia in 1967.

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