Lot 103
  • 103

Kongo Community Power Figure of the name "Chingunge N'," Loango Kingdom, Republic of Congo

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • WOOD, mirror, metal, Domestic chicken
  • Height: 22 1/2 in (57.1 cm)
the cap with Domestic Chicken (Gallus gallus) tibiotarsi bones inserted; an inventory number painted in black on the reverse of the base: "MAf 9145".


Collected in situ by Robert Visser in the Loango region between 1882 - 1903, the figure's name is recorded as Chingunge N'
Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig (inv. no. “MAf 9145 Bawili”), acquired from the above in 1903
Everett Rassiga, New York, acquired from the above by exchange on June 8, 1985
Merton D. Simpson, New York, acquired from the above in November 1985
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above on April 1, 1987 (invoice 1580)


Claus Deimel and Christine Seige, Minkisi: Skulpturen vom unteren Kongo, Berlin and Munich, 2012, p. 223
No author, "Sales and Shows", Tribal Arts Magazine, No. 69, Autumn 2013, p. 32


Very good condition for an object of this great age, with all original power charges remaining intact. Marks, nicks, scratches, and abrasions consistent with age and use. Numerous holes from metal insertions, some of which are no longer present. Metal insertions oxidized. Age cracks, including one running back to front through plinth between feet, open in the back. Vertical age crack running from bottom of coiffure behind proper right ear down into the back. Filled vertical age crack through proper left eye. Some fiber elements frayed and fragile. Small portion of cap with chicken bones is restored at top proper left side. Fine varied surface with large amounts of crusty white kaolin, exposed wood with medium brown patina showing wood grain. Set into recessed base with a metal pin fitting into drill hole on underside, removable.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The offered lot is extremely well documented for a 19th century sculpture from central Africa. According to the collecting information provided by Robert Visser this figure served an entire village community as power figure ("Dorffetisch").  The sculpture was the incarnation of a personalized spirit who had to receive regular offerings in the form of libations and chalk.  The name of the spirit is recorded as Chingunge N'.

Robert Visser was born on December 2, 1860 as Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Robert Visser in Düsseldorf, Germany.  He was the fifth child of the ship captain Joseph Heinrich Wilhelm Visser and his wife Katharina Gertrude, née Dickes. After joining the Rotterdam-based trading company Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels-Vernootschap, Visser settled permanently in the Loango region, situated in today's Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and the Angolan enclave Cabinda, where he would remain for the next 22 years (Hein in Deimel and Seige 2012: 35). Working as director of several coffee and caocao plantations, Visser became fascinated with local traditional culture which at the time was still alive but already quickly eroding as a result of Western influence. Visser married the daughter of a local chief, with whom he had a son, Robert Anton Visser (id: 36). After the death of his wife, Visser moved back to Germany in 1904 where he remarried and worked as author, lecturer and eventually as director of the local tourism club in Düsseldorf until his death in 1927 (loc. cit.).

During his time in Loango, Robert Visser collected more than 1,000 objects which he donated in several installments to the Völkerkundemuseum Berlin, the Museum für Völkerkunde Leipzig, and the Linden-Museum Stuttgart. Visser also produced more than 500 documentary photographs, several of which were published as postcards. The nkisi figure of the name Chingunge N' was donated to the  Museum für Völkerkunde Leipzig in 1903.

The notation on the inventory card from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig reads:

Chingunge N'

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