Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

Anthropomorphic neck rest. Luluwa. West Kasai, Zaïre. Wood, pigments.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  The Luluwa

The Luluwa live between the Kasai and Luluwa rivers. Their origins date back to the time when Luba immigrants integrated with the region's native population. Organized in small autonomous chiefdoms, they have nonetheless sustained the political and cultural influence of the Tshokwe, in particular with regard to the adoption of initiation rituals and the use of masks.

Luluwa sculpture, known for its fine craftsmanship, consists, for the most part, of anthropomorphic figures, their bodies completely scarified, in keeping with Luluwa aesthetic ideals. This statuary flourished for a short period at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, although by this time the Luluwa themselves had ceased to practise this type of scarification.

Male figures usually represent dignitaries, chiefs or those in charge of religious societies. Female figures are linked to fecundity cults, intended to reincarnate an ancestor in a future child, or to protect a pregnant woman or a mother and her child.

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