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 working costume, Mushenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Joseph Cornet.

In a corner of the palace in Mushenge, capital of the BaKuba, the king formally receives visitors. This is why he is dressed in his most important regalia and is seated on the sacred platform. Here, the regalia is complete, a rare occurrence, because it weighs about 80 kilograms (176 lbs.). The part that is most noticeable here is the belt. This is the nduun belt, which is said to be made of pounded bark and which reminds the Kuba of the time long ago before raffia fiber existed. For the king, the modest belt is transformed into a long, rectangular belt, covered with cowrie shells, and is especially heavy. This is the nduun Bushoong, the “belt of the Bushoong,” to whom the king is related. In front of the king, we can see some women from his family, who provided the chants for the ceremony.