Kuba Art and Rule

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

Women's dance in the royal court, Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph by Angelo Turconi.

The women's dances in the royal palace are elaborate and refined, very slow and carefully choreographed, both in gesture and in step. The women's choir accompanies them, with the rhythm accentuated by the sound of gourds struck on the sand. The participants carry richly decorated flywhisks, which they wave dramatically. The first three performers have particularly spectacular costumes. These performers include two of the king's aunts and his most senior wife. One can identify three different types of women's skirts, each of which identifies the social rank of the wearer. The metal anklets symbolize nobility. These details contrast markedly with the simplicity of the women who follow dressed in simple raffia skirts dyed red with tukula powder, and without anklets. The women gesture symbolically.