Two carved female figures, holding one arm over each other's back, an the other resting on the stomach decorated with lozenge motifs and scarification patterns; one figure is wearing a rope around the middle. A curving shaft supports the figures, broadening from the metal tip at the bottom into two bulging forms, divided by a dark black line through the middle, and covered in a carved pattern of triangles and lines on both front and back. The staff is heavy, with a nice shiny patina.
Artist Unknown, African, Luba People Democratic Republic of the Congo
In precolonial times, Luba staffs were carried by kings and other dignitaries and served as both prestige items and receptacles for sacred power. Moreover, certain iconographic features allow the staffs to be read as carved maps, sharing an iconography with the Luba memory boards (called "lukasa"). The paired female figures commonly found atop Luba staffs represent the female founders of specific royal lines, or the king himself. The broad sections of the staff, with incised patterns evoking scarification pattterns, refer to the land itself, and to specific geographic features such as mountains or rivers, personified as spirits.
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron
Friday, February 3, 2023