Kuba Art and Rule
by Joseph Aurélien Cornet (1919 - 2004)
Formerly Institute for National Museums of Congo
The photograph was taken at the dance area of the royal village. For this ceremony, a particular costume was required that was not too somber. This was an opportunity to display a very beautiful belt made of leopard hide and richly decorated, called nkap, which in principle only the king can wear, but which in fact he can loan to a dignitary or a favorite. The second belt, the property of the notables, is called mwandaan, and has two large knots on the front; it is the “secret belt.” If, during a meeting, the king says something that displeases the titleholder, they shake the belt. To refuse certain secrets, the king says: “Do not make me untie my belt.” The headgear is also a royal headgear, made of leopard skin, called ipul.