A painting of Kadi Yombo, the Bwiti Nganga (healer), and master player of the sacred instrument, the Mungongo.

Oil on board.

100cm x 70cm.

Prints available in a range of sizes and art stocks from £45.

Wearing the ceremonial make-up of red and white kaolin (clay), a raffia headdress, and clothed in plants from the forest, the Nganga plays the trance-inducing instrument, the Mungongo, for hours. It aids the Bandzi’s (those being initiated into the tradition of Bwiti) to travel within the realms revealed by the sacred plant, Iboga.

The Mungongo is regarded as one of the oldest instruments of this planet. It is the direct ancestor of the Berimbau and uses overtones created by the mouth and throat, on top of lightning-fast rhythms forged through the use of the two playing sticks. Often, when taking photographs in ceremony, the image is obliterated by the presence of ghostly orbs, the spirits who come to aid the Bandzi’s journey to the realm of the ancestors.

Gratitude to Xavier Bourgois for the photograph that this painting is based on.