This is a power figure, a magical charm seemingly carved in the likeness of human being, meant to highlight its function in human affairs. The use of nails and blades usually denote a blood “promise” made to the tribe, king or ancestor by an individual or individuals. A promise that if broken results in death. Such magical-religious paraphernalia is normally found on statues, “fetishes” called Nkisi and Nkonde.
This figure representing a human, carved under the divine authority and in consultation with an nganga or spiritual specialist who activates these figures through chants, prayers and the preparation of sacred substances which are aimed at ‘curing’ physical, social or spiritual ailments. Prior to insertion, opposing parties or clients, often lick the nails, to seal the function or purpose of the nkisi through their saliva. If an oath is broken by one of the parties or evil befalls one of them, the nkisi nkondi will become activated to carry out its mission of destruction or divine protection.