(I don´t remember the circumstances of these photographs, taken during my military service in 1959, probably during training or reconnaissance trips. )

This post will be updated after I receive additional information from specialists of Luba culture and religion.

The Luba:

The Luba are a bantu-speaking people. Linguistic and archeological evidence trace early Luba people in the Upemba depression around the 6th or 7th Century (Ehret p. 262, Christine Saidi p.43), later forming what Ehret has called the Upemba kingdom, which later expanded into the Luba Empire, an association of kingdoms, that dominated commerce (iron, copper, salt, ivory) in the south-eastern savannas West of Lake Tanganika in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, trading both with the Portuguese on the Atlantic coast and with the Arabs on the Indian Ocean coast through intermediaries. It declined when Swahili-Arab ivory and slave traders cut trade routes and stopped Luba expansion. Luba territory was incorporateded into the Etat Indépendant du Congo, later Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Luba world is constructed around the sacred power of the chiefs whose ancestors are revered, the Mbudyie secret society that keeps alive the history of the Luba kings, the Bilumbu diviners who practice while possessed by spirits. Women have a special prestige in Luba society, inclusive as diviners.

The first crossing of Africa from the Pacific (Zanzibar) to the Atlantic (Benguela) was done by Verney Lovett Cameron, commander at the Royal Navy, between 1873 and 1876. He provides us with the first image (engraving) of Luba diviners, in a village near the Lovoi River in the Upper Lualaba watershed.

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I met and photographed men in similar ritual attire, unfortunately not being able at the time to get information on their status or function.

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Luba diviners, Katanga, 1959. The contrast between traditional and Western elements (bycicle, industrial activity in background) is a witness to the resilience of Luba culture.

Luba diviners (alternative terms: medicine-man, or, erroneously, witch-doctor) dancing to the sound of a slit drum in a Kaluanzo, a village in Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo (still Belgian congo when the pictures were taken in 1959). (I wish I had been there during the whole ceremony, and had collected information on it)

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Slit drum (idiophone)
















Diviners and drum.

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Shrine (scanned from faded color print)




Purchase photographs:  Luba Diviners in Katanga, Congo

Luba statuette_COPYRIGHT_72ppi-625px_

Luba statuette

Wikipedia: Luba People

Wikipedia: The Kingdom of Luba or Luba Empire (1585-1889)

Across Africa  by Verney-Lovett Cameron   (Publication: 1878). (illustration between pp 314/315)  (ebook)

Luba religion and magic in custom and belief, 1961 by W.F.P. Burton  (pobably 1961 edition; original edition: 1939) (Pentecostal missionary)  (ebook)

Les Baluba (Congo Belge), by Pierre Colle, Avec une préface de Cyr. van Overbergh (1913)  Monograph written by a catholic missionary in early colonial times; while the purposes may no longer be accepted, this early detailed description of Luba culture is invaluable (I did not read it but it is cited by all scholars of Luba culture).

Vol. 1:

Vol. 2:     (see plate XII at the end of Vol. 2: “sorcier” = diviner; compare to the 1959 photographs)

Kingdoms of the Savanna: The Luba and Lunda Empires by Alexander Ives Bortolot
(Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2003.

Luba Art and Divination by Mary Nooter Roberts (University of California, Los Angeles) University of Iowa Museum of Art: Art and Life in Africa

Luba : aux sources du Zaïre. “Exhibition: Paris, Musée Dapper, 25 November 1993-17 April 1994”       Luba : to the sources of the Zaire by François Neyt ; [English translation, Murray Wyllie]               (BOOK, not seen)

reviewed by Pierre Petit  in African Arts Fall 1996, Vol. 29, No. 4: 87+89+96  (Citation | JSTOR)

Luba: Origins and Growth by JOHN C. YODER. Encyclopedia of African History, Kevin Shillington, Editor, Fitzroy Dearborn 2005. (pp 854 – 855)   BOOK

Luba: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries by PIERRE PETIT. Encyclopedia of African History, Kevin Shillington, Editor, Fitzroy Dearborn 2005. (pp 855- 856)    BOOK

Correlating Linguistics and Archeology in East-Central African History in  Women’s Authority and Society in Early East-Central Africa by Christine Saidi (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010    BOOK


Color image: first 3-color Kodachrome, ASA 12.        4 diviners, black-and-white: scanned 8″ x 10″ prints.        Shrine: scanned faded color print. I de-saturated some magenta, not completely to show that the right half of the object was red.       Statuette: scanned 6 x 9 cm print.



    1. jjangoux Post author

      Hi halfcrazygirl,
      Thanks for reblogging my post. I am now following yours, it´s so difficult to find news on Africa. It´s very sad that a great part of Africa is having such tragic problems. Ethnic conflicts have always happen everywhere, also in Europe, but now with drought, the greed of multinationals and the modern weapons that have spread from local wars, the situation have got out of control. Very sad…
      Best wishes,


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