Three views of the Luba staff of office or kibango sold for £18,500 at Gildings of Market Harborough.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Staffs of office, called kibango, were owned and displayed by leaders of the wealthy and powerful Luba state in what is today south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

They follow a distinctive form including a paddle terminal (referencing the importance of river commerce to Luba prosperity) and the Janus heads of Mpanga and Mbanze, twin spirits of Luba kingship thought to communicate between earthly and spiritual realms. The stylised horns carved below refer to the medicine that was thought to give the staff owner’s similar supernatural powers.

This 5ft 6in (1.67m) staff ’s shaft, probably dating for the late 19th or early 20th century, is wrapped in bands of burnished copper, a precious metal to the Luba mined far to the south at the headwaters of the Zambezi.

It came for sale in Leicestershire on January 7 from a local private client who brought it to a valuation day. Director Will Gilding told ATG that bidding came from “six multinational online bidders, three phone lines and one via a WhatsApp call”.

After a lively bidding contest, it sold to a European bidder via the internet.