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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Hemba, Luba, Shankadi : Luba Sculpture of a Woman
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Luba Sculpture of a Woman - PF.5571
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 13.5" (34.3cm) high x 5" (12.7cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: Great Britain
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Women in the Luba society held a place of honor. Besides filling important political positions such as councilors, advisers, ambassadors, and even chiefs, they were also believed to have enhanced spiritual powers. This sculpture was a diviner’s bowl, or mboko. Diviners were the master problem solvers of Luba society. Each chief had a personal diviner whom they consulted and new kings were initiated by a royal diviner. The imagery of a woman holding a bowl is typical of the diviners’ vessels and would have been one of their most important instruments. Among its diverse powers, the bowl figure is known to have curative and oracle abilities. The diviner would pinch a little medicine from the bowl and administer it to patients. Simultaneously, the figure is reputed to serve as a mouthpiece for the spirits. While many examples focus on the functionality of the bowl, this majority of this masterpiece is dedicated to the representation of the woman. This is not a bowl held by a woman, but a woman holding a bowl. Thus, this elegant sculpture, emphasizing the spiritual powers of women, certainly must have been one of the most important instruments in the diviner’s repertoire. - (PF.5571)


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