Shaping Power features Luba masterworks from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on loan from the Royal Museum for Central Africa and rarely seen outside of Belgium. Figurative thrones, elegant scepters, and ancestral figures actively contributed to the formation and expansion of a highly influential Luba state from the 18th to early 20th centuries. The exhibition includes a kneeling female figure holding a bowl by the celebrated artist known as the Buli Master, as well as the Royal Museum’s most iconic mask recalling the Luba culture hero—on loan for the first time ever. Shaping Power presents the richness and complexity of Luba arts, and lends insight into a world renowned African aesthetic and cultural legacy.
A contemporary installation entitled Congo: Shadow of the Shadow (2005) by Aimé Mpane, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, presents a gripping commentary on re-shaping power during the colonial period using the play of light and shadow, substance and ethereality. In addition, a bead-laden Luba memory device from a private collection suggests how the past is continually re-imagined through the eyes of the present.
Shaping Power marks the inauguration of a gallery and educational program dedicated to the arts of Africa at LACMA. This exhibition was co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Royal Museum for Central Africa.