Chosen to illustrate the cover of the book William Fagg devoted to the collection of Barbara and Murray Frum in 1981, this sceptre perfectly embodied the title he chose for it: "African Majesty". This major insignia of power in Luba country stands out - for its remarkable sculptural quality, its scope, its iconographic complexity and the compelling homage it pays to the role of women in the exercise of power - as one of the masterpieces within the corpus, and the most significant work to have remained in private hands.
Kibango sceptres, transferred by inheritance, were the major symbol of authority for dignitaries. A preserve of the members of the nobility, territorial leaders or diviners, they operated as receptacles for histories, genealogies and migrations for one family, one lineage or one specific chiefdom (Nooter Roberts and Roberts, Luba, 2007, p. 38-41). Although women are the major iconography for Luba authority insignia, few sceptres place them in such majesty. Therefore, this one stands out as a true testament to the sacred and hidden authority of women who "play critical roles in the formation of alliances, decision making, and inauguration rituals. More importantly still, the memories and spirits of deceased kings were once embodied in women” (ibid, p. 54). The inner attitude and expression, as well as the richness of the body ornaments and the signs of idealized beauty, are echoed here in the eminently symbolic posture and movement: lips closed on the exposed tongue, with hands resting on the upper part of the chest, as a mark of devotion, respect, and "possession of royal secrets" (Neyt, Luba. Aux sources du Zaïre, 1993, p. 166).
Towering above the composition, the standing figure is a literal part of the statuary. The quality of the carving reveals the remarkable talent of an artist who lived in the Lukuga region, within the Luba and Hemba country. The fullness of the volumes, and the shape of the coiffure (four horizontal braids atop vertical ones), and of the face are clear indications of the influence of southern Hemba workshops. See Neyt (ibid, p. 129) for the sole example of a very similar sceptre, now in the Quai Branly museum (inv No. 70.2002.15.1), attributed by the author to "a Lukuga workshop".
Finally, the representation of two duiker antelope horns (which contained the medicines of Luba healers) on the back of the central pallet are a very probable an allusion to the sceptre’s healing abilities, proceeding - in the same way as its metal elements and its oily patina - from supernatural qualities and healing powers that were conferred on sceptres by ritual specialists. The Luba clearly stated that "royalty is a woman" (Roberts-Nooters et Nooters, ibid, p. 54), and this sceptre - which was, in all likelihood, a royal possession - offers one of the most majestic interpretations of this assertion.
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