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Luba Female Power Half Figure Kakudji

Luba Female Power Half Figure Kakudji

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Luba people, early to mid. 20th century, possibly Lukuga River Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Excellent, rare and important wooden female power half figure, kakudji, depicted in a upright position with sensitively carved features of short hairstyle above large almond-shaped eyes and short flattened nose, over an oval raised mouth with full lips and pointed chin, support by a strong neck with squared shoulders, flanking pointed breasts and tubular long arms ending in hands holding a protruding stomach receiving a accentuated navel with flowing, fluid lines and gracefully rounded surfaces. She wears complex patterns of vertical and horizonal raised bar scarification (ntaho) all over the body. The torso terminates below with a round plinth carved from the same piece, decorated with animal skin. A cavity in the head filled with magical ingredients. The highly refined figure poses in a quiet gesture of gesture of meditative reverence, with her hands upon her large belly, and eyes looking straight ahead, present in the physical world but connected to the world of spirits.  

The Luba people are cluster of peoples who inhabit a wide areas of south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their kingdoms were at their zenith between the 17th and 19th century. The Luba traditional religious beliefs included the concept of universal creator (Shakapanga), a Supreme Being (Leza), a natural world and a supernatural world. The supernatural world was where ancestral spirits (bankambo) and other spirits (mikishi, bavidye) lived, and what one joined the afterlife if one lived an ethical life (mwikadilo muyampe). The Luba religions accepts the possibility of communion between the living and the dead. The religious life included prayers, community singing, dances, offerings, rites of passage rituals and invocations. These rituals and services had intermediaries for rites such as priests (nsengha and kitobo). In addition, for anxiety and ailments, a healer (nganga) and the witch (mfwintshi) were in service who would perform divination (lubuko).

The Luba Shankandi and Hemba are renowned wood-carvers; they are especially known for their carvings of anthropomorphic figures, caryatid stools, ceremonial axes, and headrests. Luba blacksmiths are regarded as holders of secret knowledge, possessing skills that according to their lore have been handed down from a mythological hero. The female shape is common in Luba art as women hold high status serving as life-giving mothers, priestesses and other high ranking officials. In addition only a woman’s body was believed to be strong enough to embody the spirit of a deceased king. According to Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts: “Luba people say that only a woman’s body is strong enough to contain a powerful spirit like a king’s, so sculpture dedicated to kingship is almost always female in gender.” (Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History, 1996, p. 42)

Excellent condition. Wear consistent with age and use. Minor abrasion. Smooth polished surface patina. Beautiful reddish brown color. Size approx. 21,5cm x 7,0cm x 6,0cm.

Provenance: Swedish private collection.

For a similar examples see:

Truncated Female Figure (Kakudji), The Yale University Art Gallery, Accession Number: 2014.121.7 (

Female Luba Figure, High Museum of Art, Accession Number: 2009.155 (

References and further reading:

Luba: Visions of Africa, Mary Roberts & Allen F. Roberts, Publisher: 5 Continents Editions Srl, 2007.

Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History, Mary Nooter Roberts & Allen F. Roberts, Publisher: Center for African Art, 1996.

Luba, Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Dec. 2018. (

History of Art in Africa: Second Edition, Monica Blackmun Visona, Robin Poynor and Herbert M. Cole, Publisher: Prentice Hall, 2007.

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