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Luba Dignitary Staff
An Artist’s Collection VOL.1
Katanga province, DRC, West Africa
Early 20th century
56.5″ x 3.5”
ex private Florida collection
Additional photos available upon request
Luba rulers possess elegant staffs that affirm their power and position. Staffs played a critical part in precolonial investiture processes, during which the chief’s sister and/or first wife preceded him with the staff and placed it next to the throne. The ruler held the staff as he swore his oath of office. Beyond their roles as prestige emblems, staffs still serve as historical documents; their forms and designs encode information about their owners’ lineage history. Like chronicles and witnesses to the past, these emblems document the local-level political histories that constituted the larger Luba state. A Luba staff is like a map, to be read from top to bottom, for a staff tells the story of an individual family, lineage, or chiefdom and of how kingship came to a particular region.