Crucifix (Primary Title)
The Kongo peoples’ experience with Christianity began in the late fifteenth century, when Portuguese explorers arrived at the mouth of the Congo River. Nzinga Mbemba, who became the Kongo people’s King Alfonso I, accepted the Christian faith in 1491 and, in 1520, Pope Leo X appointed Afonso’s son Henrique to be the first bishop of central Africa.
As a result, the Christian symbol of the cross was not unfamiliar to the Kong people, whose dikenga, or symbol of the life cycle, was represented by a diamond, a cross, or a circle with four points. On this small crucifix, the typically circular halo behind the head of Christ has instead been made in the shape of a diamond, distinctively merging Kongo and Christian symbols.
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