The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Kuba Art and Rule

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

Ceremonial presentation of the muyum (title holder) to the council, Kuba artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph by Angelo Turconi.

The current king of the Kuba belongs to a second royal dynasty. There are, however, some relics of the first, especially in the person of a titleholder called muyum, who, in his tiny territory, hardly larger than a small village, exercises certain exceptional privileges. The king must honor him, because he possesses some of the objects that validate rule which are essential to the kingdom. The two meet at the royal enthronement, and then must never encounter each other, except in the greatest secrecy. The court of the muyum has all the features of the king's own court, especially in the costume and identity of the important titleholders. He can be seen here, during a ceremony, wearing the costume of the moshambwooy mask and receiving the respects of a commoner woman, with his slave seated at his feet.