Mbole losa - panels
north east D.R.Congo,
black, ochre, white pigments
The Mbole live at the boarders of the Lomami River in the equatorial forests of north eastern Congo. They are around 150.000 people and belong to the Mongo group. Their Mbole-ena is a dialect of the Bantu languages.
Their social order is based on the existence of different secret societies - both, for men and women. To reach a higher rank in society one must be initiated in such secret societys which are leveled in various ranks.
It is there, where the losa panels or mats have their function. Made only by women, they serve mainly as a kind of passport and emblem for the members of the women society otuku. The panel owners take their prestige and identification item with them to every official occasion in relation to the otuku and esspecially to dances, here they are hold in the hand.
For further reading i strongly recommend the small book
losa - Flechtwerke der Mbole
publisher: Haus der Kulturen
der Welt, text: Mabiala Mantuba-Ngoma, Verlag Fred Jahn München, 1989
In this case the losa serves as an important mobile information panel on status, rank and abilility of the owner. But they also have a mnemotic function. Their symbols and patters can be read as book in which the women express the matters of the whole culture and society. Every initiated mother will teache her daughter the comlex semantics and their practical realisation which have to be kept in mind.
In the case of the death of an otuku member the losa mats serve as grave goods on which the dead body will be laid.
In addition to the official functions, losa mats are also used as tablet for preparing the goods and for decoration of the personal hut walls.
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