Before colonization, complex hierarchical societies flourished in Central and West Africa. At their summits were a select few—kings and chiefs whose authority was derived from their direct connection to powerful ancestors and predecessors. These rulers were wrapped in expensive textiles or costly furs, and covered in beads and precious metals, materials that signaled status and safely contained the power they wielded. The famous minkisi (meaning “power figure”) sculptures of Central Africa were similarly activated through the addition of charged materials. UMMA docents will explore the parallels between the adornment of the king’s physical body and minkisi and demonstrates how authority was expressed and power contained across a range of historical cultures.
Power Contained: The Art of Authority in Central and West Africa
Lead support for Power Contained: The Art of Authority in Central and West Africa is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost and the African Studies Center.