Kuba Mabliim Dance Adornments

  • Tribe: Kuba
  • Origin: D.R.Congo
  • Approx Age: Mid-20th Century
  • Materials: Woven plant fibre, glass beads & cowrie shells
  • Dimensions cm: 18 Long x 5 Wide
  • Ref. Number: 0140

Kuba Mabliim Dance adornments. The set is made up of  four bracelets two that would adorn the wrists leaving the remaining two for the ankles. Mabiim as they are known, are made by beautifully arranging rows of cowrie shells and sewing them in place onto  a piece of textile. Two bracelets have blue and white glass beads incorporated and two bracelets have black and white glass beads included. The addition of strings which enable these charming bracelets to be secured make this is a stunning set of tribally used ceremonial dance jewellery.

These are used in ceremonial dances worn by a king and worn by others in the procession dancing in front of the king as they shake and make a lovely rattling sound.


Kuba king flanked by royal drums, 1947 photograph by Eliot Elisofon

Museum of African Art, Eliot Elisofon Archives

Numbering about 250,000 the Kuba live in the area of central DRC bordered by the Sankuru, Kasai, and Lulua rivers. This is a region of valleys where numerous rivers flow south to north; the hills are covered with brush and the rivers are bordered by forests. Farming, aside from clearing the fields, was women’s work; they cultivate manioc, corn, gourds, bananas, pineapples, and palms. Tobacco was grown by the men. The hunt, a collective enterprise using nets, brought prestige and reinforced the social cohesion between the villagers. To fish the rivers required the participation of the entire village in order to build canoes. Although today most Kuba ethnic groups are organized into independent chiefdoms, they still recognize the authority of the Bushong king.

The art of the Kuba is one of the most highly developed of all African traditions, and significant cultural accomplishments are part of their heritage. Among the best known of Kuba art forms are royal portrait figures, ndop, idealized representations. An ndop may have played a role in the installation of the king, and during his life it is said to have been not only a portrait but also the soul double of the king. Whatever happened to him was believed to happen to it as well. Closely associated with the king’s fertility, the ndop was kept in the woman’s quarters, and was placed next to his wives during childbirth to ensure safe delivery. The kings typically sit facing forward with legs crossed, the left in front of the right; the right hand, with fingers extended, rests on the right knee, and the left hand holds the royal dagger. Geometric patterns cover the stomach and are continued on the back of the figure. The royal statues show the king wearing a rectangular shody hat, they are mounted on quadrangular pedestals. The sculptures include objects significant to each particular king, identifying his own personal accomplishments.

Reference: Zyama.com