Photographs © Tim Hamill
This fetish-like object is a terra cotta bowl with wood and other objects inside.
Authentic fetishes are very rare. Despite its appearance, this fetish was probably made to be sold.
A fetish is a statue or object with magical power, like an amulet, talisman
or good luck charm. Common to many tribes was the belief that the fetishes acquired power through
the ritualistic carving and consecration, the addition of special substances
and the recurring activation of its spirit by offering sacrifices and magic
words. Some fetishes have the heads or stomachs hallowed out to hold special
substances; some have mirrors to reflect back evil or to blind hostile spirits;
some are Janus-figures for better vigilance and protection. Among the materials
added to the wood figures are horns, shells, nails, feathers, mirrors, metal,
twine, paint, cloth, raffia, fur, beads and herbs; anything thought to add
power or magic.