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Karin van der Plas


Nkisi detail of Medicine cupboard

Nkisi detail of Eyes

The madness of the fashion world. Model 1

The madness of the fashion world. Model 2

The madness of the fashion world. Model 3

Tribal Corndolly

Full Moon Corndolly

Nkisi detail of neck

Corndollies Girls day out in London

Spot the artist!

I am a self taught artist. My inspiration comes from tribal and folk art, mythology, symbolism and early medieval art and I like to work in a unique way by experimenting with perspective, colour and 3D collage.

My work has developed from very flat paintings on one subject, where I was too scared to paint faces, to exciting 3-D collage on canvas. I now find myself searching on the internet for the most unusual objects like old dolls and false teeth. I'm inspired by real living artists. I am passionate about painting and storytelling and undertake extensive research into my chosen subjects and then use the information acquired as a means of passing on knowledge and messages that make people think about the state of the world today and how they treat each other.

For this exhibition I have been working on paintings inspired by Nkisis or fetish figures from the Congo. First encountered by missionaries in villages and towns of the Lower Congo, these 'devil images' were rudely carved, covered with dirty rags. and of ferocious appearance. Different in size and purpose, some figures are healing fetishes, others are malevolent figures, causing sickness. The most malevolent of all are Konde or Nkonde, the nail fetish, which inflicts serious illness upon persons who are believed to be the cause of trouble.

In my research I found that the Konde figures possess a threatening appearance (with a dagger and nails driven into their bodies) which is weakened by the laughing and ironic expression of the face. Some even appear dreamy and peaceful.

Knife-stabs or nails driven into the vital parts are an offering for benefits received. A nail may also be driven into the image by a sick person to pass on his complaint to an enemy, who, he thinks, sent it to him. There is also a theory that they are influenced by the Christian idea of the nail symbolising Christ's suffering.

My three figures include a straight- forward interpretation/copy of a 2-dimensional Nkisi on canvas. To adopt the features of a medicine cabinet, I cut into the canvas and made a compartment with metal doors on hinges with real medicine bottles inside it. This Nkisi has a fabric scarf and eyes made of mirror pieces. I used feathers for the headdress and flowers as a symbol of offerings made by a chief, and nails are stuck into the canvas and a dagger placed in his hand.

My second figure is that of a female Nkisi and includes all aspects of being a woman and what it means. References are made to fertility, birth, goddesses, witches and harpies (evil demons, half bird, half woman). To depict this I made breasts and a uterus compartment with dolls in it, symbolizing the fertility goddesses which exist in many mythologies and cultures. The nasty side of women often seems to be portrayed by witches and the Nkisi culture has a fear of them and their magic. The hair and make up is my understated comment on the pressure exerted on women by the fashion and beauty industry.

My last figure is called '1001 things to do before you die', which is about improving the state of the world and celebrating being alive! It could be small things like becoming a supporter for Amnesty International or spending time doing voluntary work. Instead of nails and spear I have stuck on foam board pieces with people's messages, goals and ideas for the world into the canvas. The figure is collaged with the world map to help people find their way in life and travel to broaden their minds. The medicine cupboard in the painting is full of world healing potions.

My overall aim in my work is to make people smile!


Gallery Images


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