The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Kuba Art and Rule

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

The Kuba king presides over a dance in his palace, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

Near the courtyard of the royal palace, seated on a throne placed on the old royal platform, with one section stripped of its leopard skins, the king appears wearing labot lapuum, one of his most prestigious and noble costumes. Seated around him are some members of his family, his wives and children. His senior wife is at the right, identified by her necklace and elaborate wrapper. The king's neck is adorned with a famous necklace of leopard fangs, one of only two that still exist. The royal skirt is white, contrasting with the red skirts of those around him. It is enormously long and is made of seventeen pieces of raffia. The king holds two horns, dating from the 16th century, at the time the costume was first worn by the founder of the dynasty, king Shyaam a-Mbul a-Ngwoong.