|Artist / Origin||
Attributed to the Buli Master, Luba, Democratic Republic of Congo
Period: 1800 CE - 1900 CE
Wood, metal studs
|Dimensions||H: 24 in. (61 cm.)|
|Location||The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY|
|Credit||Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Max Yawni|
|Christa ClarkeSenior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, Newark Museum|
|Mary Nooter RobertsProfessor of Culture and Performance, University of California, Los Angeles|
In Luba art, the female form is a reference to the power behind the throne of a king and also to the power of the women more generally.
When a Luba king died, his successor formed a new kingdom in a new location, and a woman who became possessed by the deceased king’s spirit went to reside in his former capital, which became known as a ‘spirit capital.’ And that woman, called mwadi, became the king, and the new king would pay tribute to her and offer gifts of honor and blessing. And she would remain in that sacred site, and when she died, another woman in her lineage would succeed her. So the memory of king became embodied by a woman.
In fact, all the regalia of a Luba king depicted the female form. The thrones that a king uses are supported by female figures, very similar to the headrests. Staffs and scepters, ceremonial axes, ceremonial cups and bowls—every single item that forms the treasury of a king had some kind of allusion to the female form. It’s because Luba people suggest that only the body of a woman is strong enough to hold a spirit as powerful as that of a king.”