Muswinga ('Portable Idol' Amulet)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

Lumbu (or Lumbo) amulets, referred to miswinga (sing. muswinga), are small talismanic figurines commonly used by healer-diviners (nganga) and sorcerers (ndotchi) in Gabon. They serve as a means of protection against negative influences, such as evil spirits and witchcraft. The amulets are typically worn on the arms, neck, or waist and often depict women.

These amulets play a significant role in protecting individuals in various aspects of life, including health, hunting, fishing, pregnancy, and more. They are believed to harness the power of both supernatural forces and actual individuals, thereby providing protection in both the natural and spiritual realms.

To increase their potency, Lumbu amulets are typically treated with a mixture of padouk powder, palm oil, and charcoal. This enhances their effectiveness in safeguarding the wearer.

In summary, Lumbu amulets are an important part of Lumbu culture and tradition. They serve as symbols of strength and resilience and are used as a source of protection for individuals. Whether protecting against harm in the natural world or the spirit realm, miswinga amulets are revered for their power and significance in Lumbu culture.

Distinguishing Features

  • Height = 10 - 15 cm
  • Made of wood
  • Most often represent women but may also represent men
  • Some figures rendered standing but most seated or kneeling
  • Figures often adorned seats, canes, sceptres, fan handles, and musical instruments
  • Varied themes:
    • Mother and child
    • Standing mother carrying baby over shoulder with woven strap
    • Seated mother with child on her back, clinging to her chest with both hands
    • Kneeling, breastfeeding mother
    • Standing woman with bent legs and a sack on her back
    • Drummer or tambourine player
    • Captive seated on a stool
    • Pipe smoker
    • Standing man holding an animal and a crooked staff
    • Scenes of sacrifice
    • Two figures in a canoe—a woman smoking a pipe and a rower paddling
  • Carved with a variety of hairstyles including characteristic hook-shaped hairstyle (tuumba or ighodu)
  • Figure usually situated atop openwork, interlacing, or ring-shaped base (nkata)
  • Patina subtly polished from repeated applications of palm oil and padouk powder

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