Luba (Baluba, Kaluba, Louba, Uruwa, Waluba, Warua), Democratic Republic of the Congo
Female bowl bearer (Mboko). One million Luba people inhabit the entire southeastern part of the DRC, as far as Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. Luba arts counts amongst the finest that Africa has to offer. It has had enormous influence over neighboring peoples. A sculpted representation of a seated or crouched female figure holding a bowl (mboko) is an important component of a diviners regalia. The diviner, painted white, would shake the mboko and analyze the position of the different objects the bowl contained. A diviner may sometimes identify this female figure as the wife of the diviners possessing spirit, and during consultations he poses it beside him, to his left, while his own wife takes her place at his right. The figure is thought to have diverse powers, including curative capabilities: the diviner may mix a pinch of chalk from the figure bowl with medicinal substances that he dispenses to patients. The chalk itself is considered to be an empowering material associated with purity, renewal, and the spirit world. The figure is also reputed to have oracular power: it serves as a mouthpiece for the spirit, and is capable of traveling from one locale to another to gather evidence on suspected criminals. The originality of this mboko figure is that the woman holds not one but two bowls, apparently to be used for different purposes.
Size: H. 26 ½, W. 11, D. 12