Nikisi Power Figure


My sketch today at The Horniman Museum & Gardens does rather look like a furry jacket-wearing man engaged in a very distasteful phone call.

In fact it is a 19th century wooden Nikisi Power figure of the Kongo people (as you can see from my notes).

The furry jacket is made from nails. Hand made ones, lots of them. All wonderfully irregular and massed together. Nikisi figures fulfilled a number of functions in The Republic of Congo – one of which (the one I can remember) was to act as a ‘witness’ in important deals and legal matters. The Nikisi would apparently unleash all manner of hell and suffering if you didn’t hold up your side of the bargain, being as they were, I think, guardians of some seriously ‘badass’ demons.

I didn’t know the museum existed until last week, when I saw an advert for an artist’s residency. If you are interested, further details can be found here:

It looks an interesting opportunity to me – working as an artist in a museum setting is the kind of thing I think I would be pretty good at. Who’d not want to have time to look around, absorb and respond to a museum environment: the space, its history, visitors and artefacts?

I already have some ideas about what I might like to explore. It would enable me to pursue, if you like, the research & education side of my practice. I’d bring in my fascination for people (the visitors) along with the artefacts themselves. The museum itself has an interesting history, inextricably connected to the way in which we present artefacts. How that story is told has an effect on the story we tell ourselves – and I think there is a lot of scope there to look at narratives. I would also like to do a bit of model making (with groups too) – so many interesting sources to draw on. Many stories that could be told.

The way these tribal art pieces were originally arranged reflected the Victorian thinking of the time – that the work of ‘primitives’ was evidence of the less evolved nature of non-western culture. Luckily that’s all changed now.

I suppose, at one level, all these things are an amazing testimony to ‘making stuff’. The human animal’s desire to carve, sew, weave, cast, sculpt, adorn, preserve, honour, worship, represent, combine and ultimately to create.

I’m not certain I will apply for the residency at this stage – it’s over the ‘wrong’ side of London for me, but if not, I will certainly look out for similar opportunities in the future… and if you’ve never been before – go!


4 thoughts on “Nikisi Power Figure

    1. Hi J x Thank you so much. I couldn’t apply in the end as I live too far away and am starting a new teaching job this month – it would have been too much to manage had I got it. But your encouragement means a lot. Best wishes, N x

  1. You’ve probably noticed by now I’ve been taking a tour of your blog after starting to follow you recently – and thanks for getting in touch! Just wanted to say that I think we’ve got even more in common than I first thought – and once more to say how much I like your work. I think you’ve only come across me as Dapplegrey on but I have a dedicated art related site at
    Glad to hear you’ve started a teaching job and hope it’s going well!

    1. Thank you. I’ve taken a look around your sites too – and I also really like your work. I think you write wonderfully – and look forward to reading more. I’m flattered you think we have much in common – which I think we do. Thanks for your follow (I sooo LOVE that tree…).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: