The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Kuba Art and Rule

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

Kuba King in ceremonial regalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

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.