Luba Art and Divination

by Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Luba chief with a throne, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1989. Photo by Mary Nooter Roberts.

 

Seats are the most important emblem of Luba kingship and serve to generate memory and history. Not only is a Luba king's palace referred to as a kitenta ("seat of power"), but seating is a metaphor for the many levels in the hierarchy of Luba royal prerogative. Stools figured prominently in royal investiture rites, signaling the moment when the new ruler swore his oath of office. To attract the spirit world, the female figure supporting many Luba stools bear the marks of Luba identity and physical perfection, including scarification, an elegant coiffure gleaming black skin, and a serene, composed attitude. Yet, ironically, Luba stools were rarely intended for viewing. Swathed in white cloth and guarded by an appointed official, stools were brought out only on rare occasions and were otherwise kept in a separate village to protect against theft and usurpation of the throne.