Luba Lidded Container

Wooden containers or bags like these were owned mainly by the medicine man of the village.

Tribe: Luba

Origin: The Democratic Republic of Congo

Approx Age: 1950’s

Materials: Wood and vegetal strap

Dimensions cm: 35 wide x 21 tall x 11 depth

Ref. Number: 1507


A 1950’s Luba lidded container made from wood with a vegetal strap. These containers/bags were mostly used by the medicine man to carry small amounts of medicine, more likely to be herbal medicines. Decorated on the lid and the front of the bag with a Kifwebe and a typical Luba patterning. Chips and scuffs and plenty of wear patina.

Provenance: Ex-old UK collection


The Luba “borrowed” many forms from the Songye traditions. The round shape has a particular aesthetic resonance for the Luba. It evokes the moon, a feminine connotation which the Luba associate with the spirit world.

Many see a strong similarity to the “Kifwebe” of their Songye neighbours, be they can usually be recognised by their rounded shapes.

The Kifwebe heads on this carrying bag present a striated décor mirrored symmetrically on either side of the large nose. The concentric motifs from the upper part of the face are fully reproduced below the horizontal line of the eyes. The mouth is oval. Typical Luba forms.

Nonetheless, the small head on top of the cover has a concaved shape form, which is a direct evocation of a female Songye “Kifwebe”, who inspired them very much for the Luba’s their own style.

Luba arts counts amongst the finest that Africa has to offer. Artists occupied a privileged place in the hierarchy. The Luba artist carried a ceremonial axe on his shoulder, an emblem of prestige and of the dignity of his position. Some apprentices would be recruited from among the deformed, who could neither hunt nor be warriors and who was believed to have a close connection with magic.

field-photo of a Luba chief in the 1922 book Missionary pioneering in Congo forests: a narrative of the labours of William F.P. Burton and his companions in the native villages of Luba-Land” (p. 196).

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