Mangaaka, The Force of LAW

All photos are mine. Help yourself.

This amazing fellow greets visitors to the African Art collection at the Metropolitan Museum.  Everyone stops to wonder at his ferocious stance and the scores of nails and blades stuck into his body.

Last week, on another fantastic gallery tour led by Dr. Gayle Rodda Kurtz, we learned the most wonderful story about this magnificent 19th century figure.  The sculpture  is a type of power figure called a Nkisi N’Konde, made in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola by the Kongo Peoples.

The N’Konde was sculpted to contain the most powerful force of jurisprudence, Mangaaka.   How cool – the sculpture was used in legal proceedings!

When parties were willing to make agreements, or vows or treaties or “any efforts to eradicate evil” they would take a nail or blade, lick it, wrap some of their hair around it and then pound it into the N’Konde.  Mangaaka was a witness.  Who would dare break their word after that?

The figure wears a king’s hat.  He once had a beard.

He has a hole in his stomach for  the “medicinal matter” used to attract Mangaaka to the figure.

Here’s his back.  No nails or blades there.

Perhaps modern lawyers should call on the power of Mangaaka to encourage parties to honor their contracts. What do you think?

Now that we know Mangaaka is a powerful mystical force of the law, we will be certain to spend some quality time with him on our semi-annual class visit to the museum.


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