Among the Kongo chiefs at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the crucifix was used, among the chiefly regalia, as a symbol of the power of authority. A ceremony during the investiture of the chief required that the future ruler receive from the hands of a dignitary, during a codified ritual, a nkangi kiditu. This badge of power, inspired by ancient Christian crucifixes imported by the Portuguese in the 16th century, could also have a therapeutic function, and, in addition to various uses, be brandished during funeral ceremonies during which the object was subjected to libations. palm oil or palm wine.
The cross is not a motif specific to the Christian world, the Kongo consider that the four branches refer to the cycle of human existence. The Kongos also used an initiation ceremony, the kimpasi, during which the aspirant was subjected to a symbolic "death" and then a "resurrection". The Kongo applied their vision of the world to this originally Christian symbol by adapting it to their values.
Source: "From the Jordan to the Congo" ed. Flammarion; "Unparalleled Art" ed. Julian Volper.
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