This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1992. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
The Kuba people of Zaire, with 18 ethnic groups, have a dynastic kingdom
over 1000 years old. This is reflected in their royal portrait sculptures,
or Ndop, and the triad of masks relating to Woot and their
mythological origins. The Mwaash A Mboy, Ngaady A Mwaash and Bwoom
masks, among Africa's most famous, portray a struggle for love as well as
power. Their distinctive forms are embellished with cowries, beads, metal,
fur, fabric and geometric designs. Other masks include Pwoom Itok
types, with cone-shaped eyes, several homed Bombo masks and elongated
There are two outstanding types of Kuba textiles. The Shoowa cut-pile embroidered wvelvetw cloths were so unique and pfized they were a sign of wealth and used as currency; we are fortunate to have a great collection. The very long, appliqued raffia cloths used by Ngeende women as dance skirts are also highly valued. Other artifacts included in the show are a large number of iron knives, spears and currencies plus carved boxes, drums, divination animal oracles and beadwork, all of which attest to the Kuba love of geometric omament and their success in integrating ffieir skillful, interlacing patterns into their everyday life.
This mask, covered with geometric designs typical of Kuba art, portrays
the wife of the first Kuba king in a ritualized reenactment of Kuba mythological
origins and royal power struggles. A Kuba ideal of beauty, Ngaady A Mwaash
was fought over by Mwaash A Mboy, her husband and king, and his brother,
KUBA, MWAASH A MBOY MASK, Zaire
This complex mask, with its elephant trunk and leopard skin, represents kingly power in a ritualized reenactment of Kuba mythological origins and royal power struggles. Portraying both the god Woot and the first king, the character marries his sister, Ngaady A Mwaash, and contests with his brother, Bwoom, who speaks for the commoners. As with most Kuba art, the piece is highly covered with geometric abstract designs.
KUBA, BWOOM MASK, Zaire
This mask, with its bulging forehead, represents the evil brother, Bwoom, in a ritual reenactment of Kuba mythological origins and royal power struggles. Seeking both the throne of his brother, Mwaash A Mboy, and the king's wife, Ngaady A Mwaash, Bwoom symbolically speaks for the common man.