Curator‘s Comments

This ceremonial axe epitomizes the emphasis in Luba figurative sculptures on physical beauty and spiritual power. Ceremonial axes were status symbols used by a Luba king or a chief, a high-ranking titleholder, a female spirit medium, or a diviner. The axe was worn over the shoulder and wielded in dances and court ceremonies. In the initiation rites of the Mbudye, the association of royal diviners, one man clears the way and creates a path with his axe to the site where the rites of initiation take place. As with many Luba ritual artifacts, a tool is transformed into an emblem of power.

Unknown artist. African, Luba peoples, 19th century

Ceremonial Axe, n.d.

Wood, iron

Purchased with the Drayton Hillyer Fund, Smith College Museum of Art

ID Number: SC 1939:9-1