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Kozo, the double-headed dog

Kongo, late 19th - early 20th century AD
From the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire)

Kongo carvers produced wooden carvings (minkisi, singular: nkisi) in human form, which were used in rituals to solve problems or to gain wealth, and also in the form of animals, particularly the double-headed dog Kozo.

Among the Kongo wild animals are associated with the dead, who are buried away from villages, either in the forests or across rivers. Domesticated animals such as dogs live in villages but are used to hunt game in the forests. They are, therefore, considered as mediators between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Kozo's two heads and four eyes make him particularly potent in this role. Powerful medicines bound with resin or clay, a substance particularly associated with the dead, are placed on the animal's back; these empower the figure to act on behalf of the nganga or ritual specialist. To instruct the nkisi in a particular task, the nganga would drive an iron blade into the figure, with an accompanying invocation.

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Kozo, the double-headed dog

  • View from above

    View from above

 

More information

Bibliography

T. Phillips (ed.), Africa, the art of a continent (London, Royal Academy, 1995)

J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

Dimensions

Length: 64.000 cm
Height: 28.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1905.5-25.6

EAF35212

Location

Find in the collection online



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