Kuba Art and Rule

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

Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, dance of royal mask. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

The royal mask is dancing here in the royal harem, before the women of the palace. That is why he is accompanied by the wives of the royal family. They are wearing their beautiful skirts with wavy edges (these are called ntshak). When standing in profile, we can see the projections on the upper part of the headgear that give the mask its proud appearance. The mask's name is Lapukpuk. It dates from the 19th century, and was restored in the early years of the 20th century. The main costume is not a skirt but a tunic that covers the entire body, decorated with tiny black and white triangles. The ornament that bounces around his neck is a sort of stretched gourd, covered with cowries. The mask itself is considered to be blind, therefore a few objects made of plant material are always attached to the performer, and serve at times to guide him.