Liminality / Mourning

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba peoples


Cloth, shells, beads, fiber

H. 45.1 cm (17 ¾”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.372

Status is an important concept among the Bushoong sub-group of Kuba peoples in Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Since the mid-seventeenth century, the Bushoong chief has been the acknowledged sovereign over all other Kuba sub-groups.  Surrounding the chief's royal court at Nsheng are villages that pay tribute to the chief by supplying his court and performing any needed services.  These practices, which constitute the matoon system, gave rise to the development of appointed, titled positions that granted their holders privileges and prestige in return for political work.  Titleholders had the authority to command the masked figures to perform at initiations and funerals.  Funerals provide the major context for the appearance of masked figures and the display of the titleholder's authority.