A fetish is a statue or object with magical power, like an amulet, talisman
or good luck charm. In traditional, tribal Africa, especially in Zaire,
these beliefs are manifested in some of the most expressive and magical
power figures ever created. This exhibit brings together the relics of many
peoples, all used for specific functions, usually to conjure away evil spirits
or attempt to control one's destiny.
Common to many tribes was the belief that the fetishes acquired power through the ritualistic carving and consecration, the addition of special substances and the recurring activation of its spirit by offering sacrifices and magic words. Some fetishes have the heads or stomachs hallowed out to hold special substances; some have mirrors to reflect back evil or to blind hostile spirits; some are Janus-figures for better vigilance and protection. Among the materials added to the wood figures are horns, shells, nails, feathers, mirrors, metal, twine, paint, cloth, raffia, fur, beads and herbs; anything thought to add power or magic.
In addition to the many groups of well-known fetishes in our exhibition we have some that are less well known or unidentifiable ( Suggestions regarding identification are welcome).
If you are looking for a particular tribe or object please check our Indexes by Tribe, by Object or by Material.