An exhibition of African statues and masks has proved so popular the Whanganui Regional Museum has decided to extend the exhibition's run by nine months.
Minkisi: Art and Belief in West and Central Africa, made up of items from Wanganui man Des Bovey's collection, was due to wrap up in August but museum director Eric Dorfman said it will now run until May.
The museum and Mr Bovey have also produced a catalogue of the works from Minkisi, explaining their history, meaning and purpose.
Dr Dorfman said the exhibition had fascinated visitors so much, many had returned for another look.
"We've found Minkisi to be especially popular with our national and international visitors, who are very impressed to find such a world-class and authentic exhibition here."
He said the collection was unusual in New Zealand, which had stronger links to English-speaking southern Africa rather than French-speaking western and central Africa, where these items came from.
He said his fascination with the statues, and the belief systems behind them, had been "a long-standing obsession".
He collected the statues during his three decades living in France, from where he travelled often to Africa.
The word "minkisi" is the word for nail fetish statues from the Congo. Several of these are on display as part of the exhibition, as well as masks and other ritual and magical statues from Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
He said the minkisi in particular could be seen as frightening to Western eyes, with their fearsome faces and bodies covered in nails and blades, but their purpose was more for defence than attack.
"People see these nails and automatically think of voodoo. In fact, each of these nails represents a request for help," Mr Bovey said.
He said any magic the statutes contained had been ritually removed by a nganga, or priest, before being sold or abandoned.
The catalogue is available from the Whanganui Regional Museum for $4.50. The exhibition runs until May.