The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Kuba Art and Rule

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

A former regent, Kuba artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

At the death of a king, the affairs of state of the Kuba are entrusted to two or three important titleholders who become “regents.” Over a period of time, they assert some royal power. They retain this honor all the rest of their lives, along with some very important and valued privileges. Among the most important is the right to wear regalia that is very close in magnificence to the most beautiful royal regalia. This regent is called Kwete Mwana, since passed away. We can notice in this magnificent costume the headdress with a visor, which can also be seen on the royal sculptures, the collar of leopard's fangs, only the second of its type, the extraordinary richness of the wrapper (this one was ordered by the regent himself and took one year’s labor). The whole ensemble is made up of more than forty items, which take several hours to don. The regent is posed before a great woven mat.