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177. Lukasa (memory board)

#177 Lukasa (Memory Board)


  • Varied in size but small enough to hold

  • Made of large wood plank with metal and smalls beads of various materials

  • 19th - 20th century Luba People Democratic Republic of Congo


  • Used as a way to record and remember important times and events in the Luba People’s society

    • Important for oral history and story-telling

    • Alludes to ancestors and deities, recording names

  • Only specifically trained people can read them

    • Demonstrates hierarchy and class consciousness, as only the most accomplished and senior members of council could read the memory boards

    • These people were known as “men of memory”

  • Readers would hold it in their left hand and trace patterns with their right index finger


  • A wooden plank that has metal beads and other beads specifically placed to make patterns in touch in visualization to discuss the history of the Luba People

  • Designed specifically to tell a story and remember the past easily for those who are trained to be able to do so
  • People in the Luba tribes were specifically trained to read lukasas and their sole job was to remember the oral stories and traditions
  • It is hard to keep the stories of the Luba people alive because it is oral tradition and the specific readers are dying and not passing down the stories and losing culture


  • At the start of the 1500s the Luba people began to emerge as a powerful nation in  central Africa

  • The People wanted to figure out a way to remember their history so their culture would not be lost

  • Specific people assigned by the Luba kings were trained to memorize patterns and colors in order to make a Luba and tell the story on it to the people in the Luba Tribes.

  • This specific one was made between the 19th and 20th century

Cross Cultural Connections:

  • This type of storytelling relates to the Benin people who had the Benin wall with plaques of patterns that kept historical records of the Benin people


  • Oral Tradition

  • Storytelling

  • Maintaining culture

  • Hierarchy

  • Language

  • Record keeping


  • AP Art History Volume 3: Beyond the European Tradition with Global Contemporary