Art Piece Representing Religious ‘nzo a nkisi’ The Flash of the Spirit

Art (Fine arts, Performing arts)

The class name is “Religion: Meaning and Purpose in the Arts.” Use this book for this assignment: “Flash of the Spirit, Robert Farris Thompson (Vintage Books, 1984 )” Chapter 2: pp. 125-158.” Dear Class,For reading, Thompson suggests that the contemporary Black artist Henry Dorsey and his African ancestors “indicated ways of realizing spiritual transcendence through […]

The Ofrenda Altar

Similar to the United States, where the grave serves as the nzo a nkisi for some black Americansthe Mexicans use the Ofrenda altar to realize spiritual transcendence. By taking nzo a nkisi to mean material metaphor that ties the dead’s anger and brings peace and honor to earth, the Mexican altars dedicated to the “Day of the Dead” festival contain nkisi that acts symbolically similar to the Kongo versions. One of the elements found on the Ofrenda altar is the colorfully decorated skeletons that symbolically remind the community of how death is always close (“Symbolism of Day of the Dead”). Their colorful and sometimes comedic pose is a visual stimulant towards the festive mood associated with “The Day of the Dead.” On the other hand, the host places bread on the basket, signifying kindness (“Symbolism of Day of the Dead”). Therefore, the Ofrenda altar serves as a provocateur with festiveness and generosity. On the other hand, while black Americans decorated their dead graves to deter their spirits from following them back home, the Mexicans used the altar to honor and welcome their ancestral spirits back home, to celebrate the union between the living and dead worlds (Thompsons 133). In this way, the living Mexican family members pay tribute to the deceased by inviting them back using the Ofrenda altar. Thus, by electing the altar, Mexicans make the altar into a nzo a nkisi to remember the dead. Similarly, the altar uses physical metaphors in depicting metaphysical manifestations. Therefore, the art piece functions as a charm that provocateurs the festive mood with generosity and laughter while bestowing honor to everyone, making its function as a secular nzo a nkisi relevant to the current study.

The Ofrenda Altar: A Mexican nzo a nkisi

Works Cited

“Symbolism of Day of the Dead.” Icatholic, 29 Oct. 2010,

Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit. Vintage Books, 1984.

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Published On: 01-01-1970

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