Photographs © Tim Hamill
This Yaka fetish has been vetted as authentic, with evidence of age and use.
Fetishes were protective figures used by individuals, families, or whole communities 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.
Yaka fetishes known as Biteki support sacred substances containing life force. These materials, together with the figure, assist the prayers and supplications of their owners for protection of harm, sickness or loss. Distinctive facial features of Yaka sculpture include the bisected eyes and upturned noses that are typical of their masks as well.