Kuba Art and Rule

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

Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, king in regalia. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

Each Kuba king owns two costumes called bwaantsh, one of which will be buried with him. Only the king is permitted to wear them. These costumes are an assemblage of all the most magnificent parts of prestige regalia numbering about fifty items. The only piece missing here is the great belt (which has nineteen rows of cowries and is four meters long). The sword and the scepter are the marks of supreme authority. The head gear is curiously in the form of a small house, the “house of the king.” On either side of the king, the senior wife and another important woman from the king’s harem, a woman of mixed African-European ancestry, are kneeling and participate in the courtly homage given by the people. Among the Bushoong, even commoners demonstrate a particular appreciation for jewelry as visible signs of prestige.