luba diviners whistle
country: democratic republic of congo
material: wood, grass, glossy patina
size: 10" (25.4 cm)
provenance: private USA estate collection.
This very rare Luba multi- purpose whistle is a prestige object, is used in communal hunting, but is most commonly used by ritual diviners, who use whistles to summon the spirits. Figurative whistles are usually made from bone and ivoire. Wood whistles are often nonfigurative; making this is a rare example of an anthropomorphic whistle made from wood. The rounded face shows some of the attributes important to Luba aesthetics, including an elegant coiffure and scarification markings represented schematically by the punched circles on the whistle. In addition to rattles and bells, whistles were and are an important instrument for invoking the spirits' attention and trust.