Seat of Power

Symbols of authority and ancestral lineage, Luba stools were given to rulers on the day of their investiture as sacred receptacles for the spirit of the new chief. Despite subtle variances in the artistic style of the stools, each example was believed to be an exact replica of the ancient stool given to the first Luba king, Mbidi Kiluwe and represented direct ties to his royal lineage. Luba society is matrilineal, tracing descent of property and prestige through the mother. For this reason Luba stools are female, and often depict kneeling figures with beautifying scarification marks and elaborate hairstyles which would attract the spirit world and accentuate her inherent connection to Luba identity. Prior to the early 20th century, these stools were not intended for sitting and were rarely seen outside of certain ritual functions. Instead, they were cared for under close watch to prevent theft or desecration, regularly anointed with oil and wrapped in cloth for safe-keeping. In the early to mid-1900s, the demand from outsiders for these ‘seats of power’ prompted local artists to craft Luba stools for trade. While it is unlikely that the present lot was used in an investiture, it does display a rich patina and the skill of a talented, local artist.