H: 11 cm (approx. 4”)
Estimated age: end of the 19th or early 20th century
Provenance: Formerly part of the Emanuel Ameloot Collection, Gent; Belgian private collection
The Kingdom of Luba or Luba Empire (1585-1889) was a pre-colonial Central African state that arose in the marshy grasslands of the Upemba Depression in what is now the southern Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the most delicate African sculptures are Luba amulets, which take the form of heads, busts, and figures, and are carved from elephant ivory as well as from hippopotamus and warthog teeth. Such amulets are worn bandolier-style, suspended from the neck or waist, or attached to the arms. In addition, leaders might sometimes attach them to the tops of their scepters. They are said to commemorate deceased relatives and may be given the names of those ancestors. The amulets are believed to protect their wearers. A classic Luba ivory charm depicting a female figure, arms to chest, with an elaborate coiffure. Hippo tooth or warthog tusk.