Mikisi Mihasi (Amulet)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Luba venerate their ancestors by carving and caring for small ivory, bone, or teeth female figurines. Said to be portraits that honour revered ancestors, mikisi mihasi pendants evoke the memory of ancestral spirits.

Suspended from a cord with other amulets, beads, and horns, a mikisi mihasi pendant is worn either diagonally across the chest, around the neck, attached on the arm, or around the waist. Pendants are also sometimes attached to the tops royal sceptres.

To maintain their lustre and as a continued 'offering' to ancestors, mikisi mihasi pendants are scrubbed clean and rubbed with oil.

Distinguishing Features

  • Anthropomorphic, delicate, hunched, and diminutive figure (sometimes carved as a pair)
  • Pendant sculpted from bone, horn, warthog teeth, or hippopotamus ivory
  • Minimalist carving of female body
  • Complex hairstyle carved
  • Head and torso emphasised
  • Elongated neck
  • Head and neck bow along curve of tooth or tusk
  • Heavy upper eyelids depict demure eyes
  • Triangular nose
  • Wide mouth
  • Facial features usually worn away (from extended use and handling)
  • Pointed breasts
  • Arms carved against torso
  • Incised, concentric circle, scarifications on torso
  • Hands gathered on abdomen or under breasts (meaning dedication, respect, and preservation of traditions and secrets)
  • Worn hole under the shoulders or in neck (through which cord passes)
  • No legs carved
  • Smooth, lustrous surface (due to regular handling and contact with the human body)
  • Caramel, yellowish or reddish-brown colour

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