The Lulua tribes people


Lula settled in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire)

The Lulua tribes people, also known as Bena Lulua, migrated from western Africa during the 18th century and settled in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). They number 300,000 and live in small regional chiefdoms and in times of crisis elect a single common leader. The role of the village chief is to ensure juridical, political and social cohesion. In common with the Luba tribespeople, their social structure is based on a caste system which includes noblemen, warriors, freemen, foreigners and slaves. Their economy is mainly based on agriculture, but they also trade.

During the late 19th century, Lulua culture underwent radical changes. In 1875, the Lulua king, Kalambam, introduced new social and religious regulations, including the ending of traditional palm-wine drinking, hemp smoking and the burning of all cult carvings.

Lulua figures have complex scarifications and a typical pointed coiffure. In 1888, the use of scarifica¬tions was banned so any Lulua figures with elaborate scarification patterns must have been produced before this date. During the 192os, the tradition was reintroduced, but the patterning was simplified.

Lulua Mask

Lulua Mask
15.3 inches – 39 cm


Lulua masks [C] are extremely rare and were probably used during circumcision and funeral ceremonies. They display enlarged eyes and complex scarification patterns on their cheeks.


Lulua carvers are known mostly for the ancestor figures they produced. The figures carry weapons and shields and represent the ideal warrior, known as the Mukalenga Wa Nkashaama [A]. They also personify the head of the leopard society who is considered to be an intermediary between the living and the dead — between natural and spiritual forces. The Lulua carved maternity figures which aided pregnant women, who were members of the Bwanga Bwa Cibola society, before and after the birth of their child. Another type of female figure, used to protect women and children, was carved holding a cup . Rare crouching figures (ro) are thought to be associated with disease and suffering.


Rare prestige objects such as neckrests, whistles and pipes belonging to village chiefs were adorned with human figures.


The 6o,000 Salampasu people live on the frontier  between the Democratic Republic of Congo  (formerly Zaire) and Angola. They maintain  strong commercial and cultural relations with  their southern neighbours, the Tchokwe and the  Lunda, to whom they pay tribute. The Salampasu are  ultimately governed by a few high-ranking chiefs,  who are, in turn, assisted by territorial chiefs, who supervise village chiefs. This hierarchical power structure is counterbalanced by a warriors’ society. The Salampasu live mostly from hunting, but the women do some farming.

Salampasu masks  are famous and are characterized by a bulging forehead, slanted eyes, a triangular nose and a rectangular mouth displaying filed teeth. The age of the masks can be determined by their stylistic variations. The oldest type has keloids and an encrusted red patina; a later style does not have scarifications, while the most recent type characteristically has simplified features and is made of thicker wood. Sometimes the masks were covered with copper plate  and had vegetal-fibre bells attached at the chin. They were used for initiation ceremonies related to the warriors’ society.

Salampasu figures  are rare and are believed to be representations of their ancestors. Large wooden panels, adorned with human or animal figures, were incorporated into male initiation ceremonies, known as Mfuku.

The 50,000 Mbagani and Ding people belong to an extinct group, the Mpasu. They migrated to their present location from the east during the i6th century. Both tribes were influenced by their southern neighbours, the Lunda, and were almost colonized by the Tchokwe at the end of the i9th century. Economically, they survive by farming and, politically, they are organized into small chiefdoms.

Mbagani carvers are renown for their masks which are characterized by a pointed chin, a rectangular protruding mouth, a triangular nose and enlarged coffee-bean eyes set under a domed forehead. Since the Mbagani people do not have major initiation ceremonies, it is thought that these masks are related to healing ceremonies.

The 8,000 Ding people live between Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). Ding artistic output is limited to copper masks, known as Ngongo Munene , which are believed to symbolize the Earth spirit. They are physically characterized by a round chin, slanted eyes and a typical rounded scarification in the middle of the forehead.

Another tribe related to the Lulua is the Lwalwa who number 20,000 and live on the frontier with Angola. They are of Kete origin and came in close contact with the Lunda people during the 17th century. Nevertheless, they remained independent, although they formed a relationship with the Salampasu and the Mbagani. Each Lwalwa village is headed by either a male or female chief, known as Dina Dia Bukalenga, whose power is held in check by a powerful society, the Bangongo. In common with their neighbours, Lwalwa men hunt and the women farm.

Lwalwa carvers are famous for their masks which are worn during initiation dances, funerals and to bring good fortune to the tribe. These masks typically display an enlarged nose, a protruding mouth and slanted eyes set under a deeply domed forehead .

The 70,000 Luntu people originate from Luba territories. They are ruled by regional chiefs, known as Mfumu, who are appointed by the Luba king. Like the chief of the Songye tribe, the Luntu king spends most of his time in isolation and is instructed in secret rites. His power is counterbalanced by the leopard society. The Luntu people are mostly farmers, but the men also hunt.

Their carving style can be distinguished by protruding eyes surrounded by multiple lids, a protruding mouth and elongated features in general. Helmet masks, although rare, are worn during leopard society ceremonies. Small fetish figures  are used to improve hunting and to protect women during labour.

The Tribal Arts of Africa: Surveying Africa’s Artistic Geography
Autor: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; New edition edition (19 Aug. 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0500282315
ISBN-13: 978-0500282311