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Re: [African_Arts] Is this a Luba staff ?

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  • LRubinstein@post.harvard.edu
    Michael: As is so often the case...when searching for information about something totally unrelated, I came across some additional relevant references
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 24, 2006
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      As is so often the case...when searching for information about
      something totally unrelated, I came across some additional relevant
      references regarding Luba kibango -- ceremonial staffs or canes -- as
      well as additional directions for investigation. In Michele Coquet's
      African Royal Court Art (Chicago and London: University of Chicago
      Press. 1996), there are references to the kibango offering the
      following detail:
      "These canes, veritable scepters, habitually include an iron rod at
      their base, which allows them to be planted in the ground...The
      kibango, or ceremonial swords, were part of the regalia and were passed
      from generation to generation within the royal lineage. The sovereign
      did not move without that emblem, which was planted in the ground
      during ceremonies. At war, a scepter planted vertically in the
      battlefield signified victory. Each of these scepters [referring to two
      illustrated examples with clear Luba stylistics -- scarification,
      facial features, etc.] has two broad, flattened parts one on top and
      one on the bottom, sculpted in the wood of the staff. These patterns
      varied depending on the lineage. These flattened parts in the shape of
      diamonds, triangles or hourglasses referred to the royal capital or
      center..." (p. 117)

      As noted parenthetically above, the figures in the kibangos illustrated
      bear little resemblance to the head atop the example which you
      presented, although the detail regarding the geometric panel and the
      iron rod suggest a possible relationship. Perhaps more productive in
      the search for more specific geographical and cultural origins may be
      an additional reference to and illustration of an OviMbundu staff or
      cane on page 106 of the same book -- the face of which is more highly
      simplified (and it is only a head and neck rather than a whole female
      figure as is found in the Luba examples). This staff can be viewed as
      the bottom image included on the OviMbundu page of the detoursdesmondes
      site at
      l . Although this particular object does lack the geometric panel, the
      face-neck element resembles that of your staff far more than those seen
      on the figures of Luba examples that I see. Too, the Manuel Jordan book
      Chokwe: Art and Initiaion Among Chokwe and Related Peoples (New York,
      Munich, London: Prestel Verlag. 1998) does offer illustrated examples
      of staffs from the Chokwe, Songo and OviMbundu that include either a
      stylistically similar face and/or a geometric element although none
      quite the same as shown on the staff you queried. Nonetheless, given
      the Luba historical origins of the Chokwe through the marriage of the
      Luba prince Chibinda Ilunga and the Lunda chief Lweji and the reported
      persistence of this legendary history throughout Lunda, Chokwe and Luba
      territories according to Jordan (p. 16) and thus the interrelationship
      among elements of Luba and Chokwe-related art and culture, you may
      benefit from a southwesterly glance rather than (or in addition to) the
      more eastward direction I had previously indicated.

      Also, below are some additional links to examples of the Luba kibango
      from the Met and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Lee


      (To explore the entire avaialble on-line catalogue of African works in
      the Cleveland Museum of Art, go to
      ist&recNo=0 )

      -----Original Message-----
      From: jivarosprl@...
      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 12:38 PM
      Subject: [African_Arts] Is this a Luba staff ?

      Dear group,

      any advice on whether this piece could be a Luba staff ?
      It is covered with a thick and dark patina, and there remains only the
      top part.

      It seems to me unusual as far as the figure is concerned. It doesn't
      show a complete human figure (nor a couple as sometimes seen) but only
      the head, and this head "ends" the piece.


      Thanks !


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