Luba Art and Divination
by Mary Nooter Roberts (1960-2018)
University of California, Los Angeles
Both lukasas and staffs are memory devices used to delineate the cardinal points of a socially and ideologically significant space. Just as a lukasa often represents a king's royal residence, so are the broad sections expanding from the shafts of staffs called dibulu, a synonym for "royal court," but with more specific reference to the administrative precinct of a court. From one to three such administrative centers may be represented on a given staff, whose shaft symbolizes the uninhabited savanna that connects one town to another. Staffs with multiple flanges reflect distance from the Luba heartland and usually record how a particular king brought royalty to a local village grouping in order to create a client territory on the edge of the kingdom. In addition to their historical roles, some staffs are imbued with magical substances for the protection of the chief’s compound.