Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

| The Luba | Luba Royal Emblems | Luba Masks | Luba Ritual Figures |

Royal double-cup. Luba. East Kasai/Shaba, Zaïre. Wood.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  Luba Royal Emblems

Although they were produced in different areas and are stylistically different, eight of the Luba works shown in the exhibit cup, bowl, caryatid stool, staffs, spear, axe and arrow-rest can be classified as emblems of prestige associated with the sacred kingdom. These sculptures, in fact, all belong to the regalia that, according to Luba tradition, the mythical founder of the kingdom, Mbidi Kiluwe, handed down to his son Kalala llunga, the first sacred Luba king. The insignia on the sculptures are believed by the Luba to be replicas of the first royal emblems. The king authorized local independent chiefs, also called mulopwe, to reproduce them.

The cupbearer is an emblem of power that is also associated with the art of divining. The term mboko, often used for this type of sculpture, describes more specifically a cup or calabash containing white clay used in rituals. This container has a direct link with the initiation quest that a future king or mulopwe must undertake before his enthronement. As well as the king or chief, important kilumbu diviners also use these special cups. The kaolin inside the cup represents the means of communication between human beings and the vidye spirits, who are the ultimate guardians of Luba territory.

The sculptor of the cupbearer has gained notoriety as "Buli Master." For the first time in the history of African art, as a result of the comparative studies of F.M. Olbrechts, a collection of sculptures has been successfully grouped and identified as the production of a single workshop, and perhaps even one artist.

main page previous index next