The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Kuba Art and Rule

by Joseph Aurélien Cornet (1919 - 2004)
Formerly Institute for National Museums of Congo

The Kuba king presides over a conference, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph by Angelo Turconi.

If the king of the Kuba possesses absolute power, this power is effectively controlled, most especially by the senior officials and titleholders. The result is the importance and the frequency of conferences. In order to emphasize their independence, the titleholders never gather inside the palace, rather, they gather outside the enclosure. The large structure called nshool, which is visible behind the king, is the guardhouse or entry structure. At the time the photograph was taken the structures of the palace were not entirely completed. The king is the only one who has the right to a chair, everyone else is seated on mats. The king never speaks directly to the title holders, but has a spokesman, seated before him, who is one of a set of twins who hold this position. The titleholders are in a circle, each with his particular required costume, hairstyle, and accessories. Behind the king, a group of people from the court help with the meeting.