Kundul (Healing Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

The Wurkun, so-called by the Jukun, meaning "people of the hills", is more accurately a collection of ethnic groups including the Piya, Kulung, Kwonci, and Kode living in the Muri Mountains of Nigeria. These groups share beliefs, rituals and artistic styles.

The Wurkun believe that Yamba (sometimes called Mol by the Kulung) is the creator god, one that cannot be approached directly by the living. Under Yamba are communal spirits (kindima in Piya and basali in Kulung), entities associated with ancestors and the dead, responsible for the general wellbeing of communities. These communal spirits have cult associations dedicated to them including Zugey, Eku and Bongey. Through these associations, the community can appeal to the spirits for assistance in the face of adversity and misfortune. The associations are also used to maintain social order and place sanctions of those that demonstrate deviant behaviours.

A third tier of spirits—waamina (in Piya), purum (in Kulung) or the kundul (called ngunpuro by the Kulung)—are said to be the closest group to humans and are associated with the health and wellbeing of individuals and family units. These spirits are physically represented as male-female columnar wooden figure pairs.

When an individual suffers misfortune or disease, they consult a healer. Before the healing ceremony, the individual is instructed to commission kundul male-female figures, typically carved by blacksmiths from the community. To activate the figure for use in the healing ceremony, the healer sprinkles offerings of animal blood and millet beer on the figures. Finally, the figures are rubbed with a mixture of brown and/or red clay and oil from guna seeds (cucumis melo).

To maintain ongoing protection, annual offerings are made to the figures which are typically kept in the homes of the clients.

Distinguishing Features

  • Stylised, columnar figure
  • Carved in raised relief
  • Height between 30 and 60cm
  • Male figure has crest on head
  • Enlarged head
  • Face naturalistic or abstract
  • Nose peg sometimes inserted into hole in nose bridge
  • Elongated neck
    • Necklace of plant fibre sometimes attached
    • Friction from necklace smooths surface of neck
  • Lozenge shaped arms
  • Shoulders, arms, and hands connected as single raised ridge
    • Forms diamond or oval shape
    • Form encircles front of torso in relief
  • Elongated, cylindrical body
  • Protruding navel
  • Legs entirely absent
  • Mounted on iron spike
  • Reddish brown colour with crusty patina

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