Memory Boards

Memory as art.  Art as stories.


Memory Board (Lukasa) – Democratic Republic of Congo, 19th to 20th C.

Lukasa, or memory boards, are hand-held wooden objects that present a conceptual map of fundamental aspects of Luba culture. They are at once illustrations of the Luba political system, historical chronicles of the Luba state, and territorial diagrams of local chiefdoms. Each board’s design is unique and represents the divine revelations of a spirit medium expressed in sculptural form.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art


I think it was September
when I went away
to carry home
the sack of Troy. A wealth
to root you
firmly to our island home,
so near, not yet attained.

Ten years I wandered,
wrecked by wave, God
deaf to my pleas. Troy
sleeps with the fish. (May they eat
its curse!) Good men lie there too.
Hope died with them.

I cannot understand, my son.
Am I not Odysseus? Son of Laertes,
Autolykos, son of Hermes, begging
from his belly. Must I roam
this wide world feral
and abandoned?

Soon the shades surround me.
The sun no longer warms me.
You, at Ithaka, the prize.
The hunt is all I know now.

Dark. Wind. Rain.
Or tears.
Sleep, or death comes,

I live to hold your face,
to look my fortune in your eyes.

I live.



Are you real?
Do you come?

Did you war against the fabled Troy?
Know Akilles?
Plot with High King Agamemnon?

Do they lie who say
you were a clever man,
the architect of victory?

Why are you not here
where lesser men consort
to wed Penelope,
where Telemakos
mimes the goatherd?

Am I son of Odysseus, of Hermes,
or born to some base
storyteller? Were you warrior, king,
or wandering minstrel? Tales
are not enough. Deeds, not words,
redeem me. Come or die.

I walk unsure. The sea
whispers. Lies.
Truth is man.
Warrior or minstrel, one is real.

Is the world so wide
you cannot come?

Or do you hunt
another myth to occupy?