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late 1800s-early 1900s
Wood, brass, animal hair, antelope tusk
Overall: 34.8 x 6.2 x 14.5 cm (13 11/16 x 2 7/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.452
Because this Mankishi is neither small or quite large in size, it was most likely used by a family rather than an individual.
Mankishi figures were believed to have magical powers and were used by diviners to contact spirits in otherworldly realms. Smaller, personal power figures were used to connect with “common” ancestors, while the larger Mankishi figures contacted higher-ranking ancestral spirits. These power figures were kept in their own personal spaces because of their powerful status, and could only be handled by their designated nkunja, or guardian.
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