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Staff of Office

Staff of Office

early-mid 1800s

Part of a set. See all parts

Wood, metal

Overall: 170 cm (66 15/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2004.85

Fun Fact

The folded arms of the female figure near the bottom of the staff draw attention to her breasts, symbolizing women's important reproductive role.


The Luba kingdom flourished from about the 17th century to the late 19th century. The best-known Luba object types relate to ideas of kingship and the kingdom's ceremonial and ritual life. Staffs are among the most important Luba regalia. During the investiture ritual, the new ruler holds the staff when he swears his oath of office. Aside from being a symbol of rank and high office, a staff also serves as a historical document and archive that can be "read" like a sculptural map, memorializing important events, places, and people. The rendering of women points to their political and religious significance in history and society; although Luba rulers were always male, their mothers, wives, and sisters acted as advisors and diplomats behind the scenes. On this particular staff, the Janus heads and female figures probably represent one of the many Luba tutelary spirit pairs. The metal point alludes to the kingdom's stability and durability.

See also
African Art
African Art
Type of artwork: 
Wood, metal

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