This Luba Mboko is a finely balanced sculptural piece. The kneeling female figure, with a double-banded coiffure typical of the Luba, clasps a bowl which still retains traces of the sacrificial chalk. The top of her head is crowned with a single fetish hole, and scarification marks adorn the figure’s body at the top of her shoulder blades and below her breasts. The figure’s surface patina is particularly prevalent around the shoulder and head area, where the figure has been handled throughout the years.
Bowl bearers – known as Mboko (the name for the sacred vessel held by the figure) – are a vivid example of how knowledge and divination are visualised in Luba culture.
Ex Private Collection, UK
Estimated Period: First Half of 20th Century
Bowl bearers – known as Mboko (the name for the sacred vessel held by the figure) – are a vivid example of how knowledge and divination are visualised 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. Mboko are thus icons of royal authority and legitimacy. The bowl would have served as a container for sacred chalk, an empowering material associated with purity, renewal and the spirit world.
The Metropolitan Museum, ‘Divination Vessel: Seated Female Figure (Mboko) 19th-20th Century’ https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/311051
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