Divination Vessel: Seated Female Figure (Mboko),

Luba peoples

Designed to forecast future events, this bowl bearer—known as a mboko (the name for the sacred vessel held by the figure)—is a vivid example of how knowledge and divination are visualized in Luba culture. Luba bowl figures commemorate the first mythical Luba diviner, Mijibu wa Kalenga, and were primarily the preserve of royal diviners, who used them as oracles. More recently, such works have also been commissioned by rulers for use as containers filled with sacred chalk, an empowering material associated with purity, renewal, and the spirit world. Mboko are thus icons of royal authority and legitimacy; their ownership by both types of patrons points to the historic relationship between divination and the origins of the Luba state.

Not on view

Public Domain

Object Details

Date: 19th–20th century

Geography: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Culture: Luba peoples

Medium: Wood

Dimensions: H. 7 1/2 x W. 4 1/8 x D. 8 in. (19.1 x 10.5 x 20.3 cm)

Classification: Wood-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1969

Accession Number: 1978.412.590

[Clark and Frances Stillman, New York, until 1969]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

Neyt, François. Luba: To the Sources of the Zaire. Paris: Musée Dapper, 1994.

Roberts, Allen F., and Mary Nooter Roberts, eds. Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History. New York: Museum for African Art, New York, 1996.

Luba (35)
Sculpture (25,950)
Vessels (39,221)