Lot: 37

Female caryatid stool "kipona" ("kihona", "kikona", "lupona")

D. R. Congo, Luba

Provenance Size Hammer price
Leutnant Francis Richard von Parish (1870-1903), Falkenstein im Taunus
Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
Ludwig Bretschneider, Munich, Germany (1971)
Munich Private Collection

Francis Richard Parish, lieutenant in the Württemberg Queen Olga Dragoon Regiment, was transferred to the Schutztruppe for German East Africa at his request in the summer of 1901 and arrived in Dar-es-Salam in September of that year. He left the capital of the colony in December 1901 and travelled through its entire territory from east to west in order to take command of the Ishangani station on Lake Kivu after a march of around three months. Parish could not cope with the climatic conditions and fell seriously ill. He returned to Europe at the beginning of July 1903 and died just three weeks later.
H: 17.6 inch 4000 EUR

wood, pigments, old collection label, inscribed: "1.C.32736. Central Afrika. Congo. Manjema. Holz-Figur. Gesch. Leutnant v. Parish", on reverse: "Orig. N:113."; handwritten number in two places: "32736" and "...3273..."

The caryatid stool is the characteristic emblem of Luba rule, and served as a dwelling place for the king's spirit.

The female ancestor who is "carrying" the seat - effortlessly and hence metaporically - symbolisis the matrilineal descent through which the monarchy is passed down and legitimised. It was important that the insignia of a male ruler evoke the feminine, for power was considered to be gendered as both male and female. It was essential at all times that both dimensions of this relationship be present in order for the authority of the "mulopwe" to be most effective.

Such stools were only used very occasionally; they were usually wrapped in white cloth, guarded in a special hut and sometimes hidden away. They were used mostly during rites to inaugurate Luba headmen or the king himself. For this purpose the stool was placed on a leopard skin. When the new ruler sat upon the stool and placed his feet on the pelt, his reign took effect and he was empowered to rule. At that moment, he addressed his public for the first time as "mulopwe", or "king of the sacred blood", and the caryatid stool became a living incarnation of his rule and domain.


E. Nigmann, Geschichte der Kaiserlichen Schutztruppe für Deutsch-Ostafrika, 1911 Zwei Reisen durch Ruanda 1902-1903, Aus Tagebüchern, Briefen und hinterlassenen Papieren des Oberleutnants F. R. von Parish, zusammengestellt von Oscar Freiherr Parish von Se