Democratic Republic of Congo
The Luba empire was founded in 1585 in the Upemba depression by King Kongolo. His nephew and successor, Kalala Ilunga, rapidly expanded the kingdom to encompass all territories on the upper left bank of the Lualaba River. At its peak, several tribes in this region were paying tribute to the Luba king. At the end of the 19th century, with teh advance of the Ovimbudu people from Angola and the raids of the East African Muslim slavers, the empire was weakened, in fact, collapsed when the Belgian colonials took control.
With the assistance of a court of notables, called
, the king, known as the
, reigned over his subjects through clan kings called
. These clan kings could symbolically become the
son which created client states throughout the empire. A secret society,
, kept the memory of the Luba empire alive and permeated throughout the Luba territory, bonding the diverse populations together. The Luba empire economy was complex - it was based on a tribute system and the redistribution of resources from agriculture, fishing, hunting and mining. The production of salt and iron was under the king's control.
Luba artists create numerous objects that relate to the royal court activities. As the Luba empire extends over a vast territory, there are a large number of stylistic variations. Luba artists show their social status through the adze they carry on their shoulders.
~ links to LUBA items on