Fetishes (Nkondi, or minkondi for the plural), were protective figures used by individuals, families, or whole communities. They would use them to destroy or weaken evil spirits, prevent or cure illnesses, repel bad deeds, solemnize contracts or oath-taking, and decide arguments.
A diviner or holy person would activate the statue, using magical substances. Fetishes gained power and were effective because people believed in them.
This particular fetish statue was made by someone of the Zaire, Bakongo/Kongo Tribe. It is a Nkisi Nkondi or Nkisi Nkonde nail fetish. An "Oath Taking and Healing Figure."
The figure shows an 'oath taking' gesture, with one arm upraised. At one point the figure probably held a blade, or baaka, an ancient kind of knife used for extracting the milk of the palm wine tree, in the upraised arm. The blade was believed to have the power to kill by supernatural means.
The original blade was lost and replaced by this spear, by the African Art company when I originally purchased it from, in 2001. I was told this figure was around 50 years old then.
I've often thought to make my own personal fetish in my image. I certainly have trouble with negative things happening like people being dishonest with me. So having my own Nkisi to 'nail-the-issue' into couldn't hurt!
Only thing, who would I get to activate the statue using magical substances?