Photo of Kozo, the double-headed dog
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Kozo, the double-headed dog

© The Trustees of the British Museum
Image id: 00034290001
Object type: figure
Technique: carved
Materials: wood, resin, iron, horn, fibre, bone
Production place: Democratic Republic of Congo
Production date: 19thC(late)-20thC(early)
Findspot: Democratic Republic of Congo
Department: Africa, Oceania & the Americas
Object ref. no: Af1905,0525.6
File size: File size info 16.14 MB - 3072 x 1836px
26.01cm x 15.54cm @300ppi
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.

Length: 64 cm
Height: 28 cm

For more details see the British Museum's Collection Database >