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 nyimbal'k (judge), Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

Among the Kuba, nephews or cousins of the king usually have limited power. This one is a nyimbal’k, a judge who presides after an accident occurs. After seeing him in his everyday dress, typically a European suit, one is astonished by his transformation by the wearing of traditional regalia. His wrapper is a foreign textile, and is not embroidered, except for the border. The collar is unique and is worn bandoleer style. He wears a single bracelet on his wrist. Only the collar of fur identifies him as a member of the royal family. Everything is carefully controlled and reflects his rank. Good taste, reasonable proportion, and a noble attitude are the perfect and most eloquent expression of the status of the wearer of this costume.