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Object Name: Female figure
Culture: Luba peoples
Place of Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date/Era: 18th – 19th century
Dimensions: H: 31.00 cm, W: 11.00 cm, D: 12.00 cm
Medium/Materials: Wood, textile, metal beads, fiber cord, pigment
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Accession Number: X65.7488
The Luba peoples consider power to be both male and female, and in past centuries Luba kings relied on the spiritual capacities of women to augment their own authority. Men surrounded themselves with insignia depicting the ideal female form with elaborate hairstyling and scarification patterns, marks of beauty and identity. While men were chiefs and kings, women of the royal Luba courts occupied prominent political positions. Women were almost always spirit mediums in sacred contexts because, as the Luba explain, only a woman’s body is strong enough to hold a powerful spirit. Women also guarded the secrets of royalty within their breasts, thereby protecting Luba kingship.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.