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Luba Female Figure

Luba Female Figure

Regular price €425,00
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Luba people, early to mid. 20th century, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mesmerizing wooden female figure are standing in a upright position with flexed knees and hips. The body is well-proportioned with 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, the most prominent parts of which are endowed with a glossy patina of age and use. The neck is tall and slender, topped with a finely carved head with elegant features of short hairstyle above large almond-shaped eyes and short flattened nose, over an oval raised mouth with full lips and pointed chin. 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.

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)

Good condition. Wear consistent with age and use. Minor cracks. Encrusted surface patina. Beautiful dark brown color. Size approx. 25,5cm x 4,7cm x 5,8cm (excluding the modern base).

Provenance: From the estate of a Swedish painter and pop artist Sven Inge Höglund (1935-2008). Foundation for Innovative Art.

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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