Art and Centralized Power

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba peoples

Mask

Cloth, shells, beads, fiber

H. 45.1 cm (17 ¾”)

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

Masquerade is another medium through which rulers dramatize and valorize ideological links with the founding ancestors of kingship. Kuba, a confederation of ethnic groups in south central Democratic Republic of the Congo, have masking traditions that pertain both to royalty and to mythology. A spectacular beaded and feathered mask represents the central character of the sacred charter, who is both Woot (founder of the Kuba kingdom) and Moshambwooy (creator of humankind). The mask depicts an old man with a white beard, to evoke the wisdom and age of the most ancient hero.

Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, royal mask dance. Photo by Angelo Turconi.