As many other African tribes, the Luba love to represent women in their sculptures. It reflects the important role of women in the Luba communities. Our head rest is a fantastic piece and represents the typical art works, like their stools, the divinitation bowls (mboko), also extraordinary carved bow stands, and memory boards (lukasa).
History of the Luba tribe
The history of the tribe is known from around the year 1500, but their reign was considerable extended under their leader Ilungu Sungu during the years 1780 and 1810, and under Kumwimbe Ngombe and Ilunga Kabale in the next 60 years. Only when European colonisers and Arab slave traders made their way into their territory, the power of the tribe was considerably reduced.
Yet, during the best days, the tribe maintained wealth and power monopolised in the hands of the rulers, dominating the trade of salt, copper, and iron ore. In addition their were fisher and hunter. Their population is reckoned to be around 1 million. The neighbouring tribes are the Chokwe, Ndembu, Kaonde, Bemba, Tabwa, Hemba, Songye, and the Lunda.
Luba religion and art
As many other African tribes, ancestor worship and rituals played a central role, but it was also a reinforcement of the tribal rulers. Through their martial, and sometimes violent history of over 500 years, they have not only developed an intense range of rituals, but also ritually related art objects. Famous are their ceremonial axes which they always carried over their shoulders. A lot of attention was paid to the sculpting of the head rest, as our piece can prove. It gave not only a resting place, but also protected the ceremonial hairstyle. The head rest was such an important and personal possession that it was often buried together with its deceased owner in his grave.