Arrow holder with head and three prongs

Luba peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Decorated with incised geometric designs representing pangolin or tortoise scales and a female figure or head, bow stands were items of royal regalia that served both practical and spiritual purposes. They were used to hold bows and arrows as well as symbolize sacred kingship. They refer to Mbidi Kiluwe, a culture hero and renowned hunter and warrior, who used a bow and arrows and introduced sacred kingship to the Luba. This one retains traces of oil that had been rubbed into the wood.

Royal bow stands were not displayed in public but kept by rulers' bedsides. They were also enshrined with potent relics of past kings in a shrine house located within the royal compound and guarded by the Kyabuta, a female dignitary. The head on this bow stand probably represents a female founder of a royal clan.

Excerpt from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Web Resources

  • Brooklyn Museum
    Learn more about Luba arrow holders and their symbolic significance.