Authentic Bakongo fetishes are very rare. Despite its appearance, the animal fetish below shows no evidence of age or use and was probably made to be sold.
Photographs © Tim Hamill
BAKONGO STYLE, DOG NAIL FETISH 8, 38 x 15", $1000
Fetishes were protective figures used by individuals, families, or whole communities to destroy or weaken evil spirits, prevent or cure illnesses, repel bad deeds, solemnize contracts or oath-taking. and decide arguments. A diviner or holy person would activate the statue, using magical substances. Fetishes gained power and were effective because people believed in them.
These power figures take the form of a dog, because of its ability to protect and to search out evil forces. The nails or blades, when driven in, activated its spiritual power, offering protection or serving oath-taking or trial purposes. Small figures were family owned and were used to protect the home, larger ones would protect an entire village.
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