Kuba Art and Rule

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

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

Between two segments of the performance in the dance area at Mushenge, the moshambwooy and bwoom masks rest for a moment. On the former, we can admire the great white beard, symbol of the wisdom of this most senior of masks; the latter allows us to take a close look at his tunic covered with cowries and the long strands of raffia that are used to help direct the dance of this blind character. Everyone wears traditional dress with the typical Kuba hairstyle, the laket woven partially with raffia, the type of palm tree visible in the background. Between the two masks, a titleholder gives advice and directions to bwoom. This is the sculptor, Lyeen, one of the last great sculptors working under the king's patronage, himself the son of a king as is made clear by his particularly elaborate and beautiful skirt. This type of spectacle has become very rare in recent years.