Luba (Baluba, Kaluba, Louba, Uruwa, Waluba, Warua), Democratic
Republic of the Congo
Luba art counts amongst the finest that Africa has to offer and has had enormous influence over
neighboring peoples. A new cult, outlawing the ancestor cult, has been the cause of an
almost systematic destruction of their traditional art. Many of its ancient
traditions have survived, however, among them the use of staffs as emblems of leadership.
Staffs of office were both prestige items and receptacles for sacral power. Sanctified by
ritual specialists, they took on supernatural qualities and were said to have healing
power. Luba staff narrators often identify the female figure as the king, whose spirit is
carried in the body of a woman, and whose powers are tucked secretly within her breasts.
Here the body of woman is topped with a kifwebe
mask. The Kifwebe society used such masks
to ward off disaster and other threats. It was warn at ceremonies honoring a dead chief,
at the installation of a new chief, and at the welcoming of important visitors to the
village. It had the capacity to heal by means of the supernatural force it incorporated.