Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ceremonial Staff: Female Figure Base (Kibango)

19th–20th century
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Luba peoples
Wood, iron, copper
H. 57 7/8 x W. 4 1/8 x D. 2 3/4in. (147 x 10.5 x 7cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a flourishing Luba sculptural tradition that was designed to identify and glorify the king, chiefs, and titled officials who constituted the complex hierarchy of leadership within the Luba empire. Like many African peoples, the Luba consider their kings to be divine, endowed with supernatural powers that can influence social well-being and the productivity of the land. As descendants of the empire's founders, Luba leaders possess bulopwe, sacred blood, which enables them to rule and entitles them to own magnificent regalia, including carved wooden objects, metal articles, beads, fur, and feathers. Luba rites of royal investiture center on the transferal of these articles of insignia, which are considered the embodiment of the very essence of kingship. The sculptural forms within this collection derive from such utilitarian implements as three-pronged bow rests and paddle-shaped staffs, objects that recall the hunting and fishing economy of the Luba past.
[Merton D. Simpson, New York, until 1969]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1969, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

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