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The vast Luba territory, comprising the entire southeastern part of the DRC, as far as Tanganyika and Lake Mweru, is uniform as regards language and culture, but racially mixed. Designed to forecast future events, the bowl bearer – known as a mboko (the name for the sacred vessel held by the figure) – is a vivid example of how knowledge and divination are visualized in Luba culture. Luba bowl figures commemorate the first mythical Luba diviner, Mijibu wa Kalenga, and were primarily the preserve of royal diviners who used them as oracles. More recently, such works have also been commissioned by rulers for use as containers filled with sacred chalk (kaolin), an empowering material associated with purity, renewal, and the spirit world. They were sometimes kept at the door of the royal residence. Visitors were expected to take the kaolin to smear on their chests and arms, and to spread on the ground before the king as a gesture of respect. One well-known Luba sub-style has been called the "long-face style" of Buli. It contrasts strongly with the roundness of other Luba figures. The faces are elongated, with angular, elegant features. This figure is a good example of this style.
Provenance: Raskin Private Cillection