Lukasa, the nineteenth-century ‘pendrive’ that was born in Congo | Trends


If we describe lukasa as a portable memory storage device used for centuries by the Luba ethnic group, which lives in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we tell the truth. If we omit the centuries and the lubas, we could say the same of a pendrive.

Lukasa integrated into the Cantor Center for Visual Arts collection (Stanford University)

Lukasa, which can be translated as "the long hand", is a memory card: it keeps the history of this town, so that its members can remember it. Genealogies, protocol maps, migrations, social structures, medicinal practices, and mythical characters of the Luba are codified on these plates that can be held on the palm of a hand -25 centimeters wide by 13 long- and are full of beads, engraved and metal parts. On the back of all of them a turtle appears, a symbol of Luba royalty. "All devices are similar in shape, size and design, which shows that these plates were created according to known standards," says Thomas Q. Reefe.

According to your inquiries this pendrive The nineteenth century with the appearance of an integrated circuit could only be created and manipulated by the Bambudye, a society within the Luba, formed by men and women responsible for recording and interpreting the historical and political principles of their people. Memories stored in lukasa, were not available to any reader, but to a few chosen who were responsible for transmitting these stories orally, with performances that were accompanied by dances and songs.

The lukasa are tactile, but not like our current technology: the textures and geometries that make up the concept map of the plate become mnemonic resources that helped the Bambudye build the story. "Each configuration is used to convey a certain type of information, "Reefe adds. Thus, Mbidi Kiluwe, a key character in the genesis according to the Luba, is represented, for example, with a large blue bead. Kongolo, a local tyrant is a red bill surrounded by small yellow beads.

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