Checks and Balances

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Mbudye officials displaying emblems of office, including two lukasa memory boards and staff of office, Luba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Mary Nooter Roberts.


Sometimes the sharing of power by each of these "epicenters" is visibly apparent by the wearing of some special insignia. In the case of Luba, all participants in royal culture don a nkaka (sacred beaded headdress) when performing official duties or when assuming a state of spirit possession. The headdress serves both to protect and enclose the spirit within the wearer’s head and also to encode and transmit messages pertaining to royalty.