Kuba King Figure

  • Tribe: Kuba
  • Origin: Kuba Kingdom DRC
  • Approx Age: 1954
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 26 tall
  • Ref. Number: 0961

An absolutely exquisite carving of a Kuba King Figure in the representation of king Mbop aMabiinc maKyeen [Bope Mobinji Kena], (1939 – 1969). This figure is dated 1954 by the sculptor who carved his name on the underside of the base. Médar Paul JHedoi (?) When this figure was carved the carver focused on absolutely every minute detail omitting nothing at all from the traditional hat embellished with tiny carved cowrie shells to the depiction of such detailed areas on the  Kuba cloth that is wrapped around the Kings body. It is so precise showing the true pattern that Kuba cloth holds. Finer detail on both the finger and toe nails gives life to this King figure holding a true feeling of how this majestic person would look. A figure resembling what would have been the slave to the king is equally impressively carved missing no detail at all showing great attention from the hair to the shape and design of the garments being worn right down to the highlighted bones and toe nail carving.  Carvings of two figures around the base of the figure also depict slaves, with detailed carved bindings to both their hands and feet. Carved with such precision and mastery worthy of only a King within the Kingdom.

PROVENANCE: Colonial family acquired this at the end of the 1950’s from Paul Gilman a retired Belgian collector living in Liege who has more than 70 Art objects mentioned in the Guy van Rijn Yale database of African Art. A signed certificate of authenticity accompanies this piece from a Belgian Gallery.

Kuba Nyim Mbop aMabiinc maKyeen[Bope Mobinji Kena],(1939 – Sep 1969). Circa 1947

Kuba oral histories recall the migration of their eighteen constituent ethnic groups to the western Kasai region of what is now central Democratic Republic of the Congo by 1568. There they were united within a paramount chieftaincy during the seventeenth century and a new political dynasty came to be embodied by the larger-than-life hero Shyáám áMbúl áNgoong (r. ca. 1630).
Following his installation, a new Kuba leader, or nyim, announced his choice of a praise name, geometric pattern, and signature emblem (ibol), which became identifying symbols of his reign. He subsequently commissioned the official ndop sculpture that would serve as a surrogate for his person. During a nyim’s lifetime, his ndop served as his spirit double; following death it was the site for his life force. Paradoxically this genre was designed to make manifest the essence of an individual while deliberately obfuscating physiognomic differences through adherence to an established visual lexicon. Consequently each leader’s ndop is a variation on a highly unified visual theme not unlike the rich exploitation of pure abstract pattern that is a signature of Kuba aesthetics.

Kuba Nyim Mbop aMabiinc maKyeen[Bope Mobinji Kena],(1939 – Sep 1969). Circa 1947

List of Kuba Kings( nyim, nyimi) Nyim or Nyimi (king)

Oral estimation of the kingdom founding, (c.550)
Shyaam aMbul aNgoong [Shamba Bolongongo], (1600)–centralized the kingdom
Kot aMbul [Kata Mbula],(1776 – 1810)
Miko miMbul [Mikope Mbula],(1810 – 1840)
Mbop aMabiinc maMbul [Bope Mobinji],(1840 – 1885)
Miko aMabiinc maMbul [Mikope Mobinji],(1885 – 1890)
Kot aMbweeky aMileng [Koto Mboke],(1890 – 1896)
Misha aPelyeeng [Mishanga Pelenge],(1896 – 1900)
Miko aPelyeeng [Mikope Pelenge], (1900- ? )
Mbop Pelyeeng II [Bope Pelenge], (1900- ? )
[Mingashanga Bake], (1900 – ? )
Kot aKyeen [Kwete Kena], (1900 – ? )
Mbop aKyeen [Bope Kena], (1900 – 1901)
Miko miKyeen [Mikope Kena], (1901 – 1902)
Kot aPe [Kwete Peshanga Kena],(1902 – 1916)
Mbop aMabiinc maMbweeky [Bope Mobinji Boke],(1916 – 1919)
Kot aMabiinc maKyeen[Kwete Mobinji Kena],(1919 – 1939)
Mbop aMabiinc maKyeen[Bope Mobinji Kena],(1939 – Sep 1969)
Kot aMbweeky aShyaang [Kwete Mboke] ,(Sep 1969 – ? )

Photo taken from: The Arnold Newman Website info@arnoldnewman.com

Kuba (also called Bakuba) people are agriculturalist and a cluster of Bushong-speaking ethnic groups of the larger Bantu ethnicity living in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo between the Kasai and Sankuru rivers east of their confluence.
Apart from the Bushong speaking principalities, other Kuba people includes the Kete, Coofa, Mbeengi, and the Cwa Pygmies. The Kuba people always refer to themselves as the Bakuba which translates to “people of the throwing knife” (Washburn , 17).
When the kingdom of tribes was first brought together, the people were ruled by the Bushong people from the hill country of the central Congo (Caraway);these people have contributed most of the rulers to the Kuba. Whenever a king dies, the capital is moved to the location of the new King (Washburn , 19). Intertribal trading occurred often because the Kuba were such a powerful empire (Meurant , 121). Supernatural powers are the basis for the beliefs; spells, witchcraft, and channels between the living and the dead are some of these powers. The king is the chief of the sorcerer’s and bridges the boundary between the natural and the supernatural (Meurant , 122).

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Kuba King Photogaphed in 1947 by Eliot Elisofon

The king and other royal parliament members have a very prestigious style of dress that distinguishes the members ranking; the king holds objects that are very important within the Kuba society. The different pieces of clothing show the role that the king is playing at that time and show how sacred the role of the king is to their society. The state dress is called bwaantshy and is usually made of skins, cowries, and patterned mats which ensures that the king never touches the un-sacred ground. This is worn on state occasions and when the king dies, he is buried in it. One of the most important parts of the outfit is the raffia cloth tunic covered in cowries and beads. The belt that wraps around the king’s waist is over thirteen feet long by eight inches wide and is covered in beads and cowries. Not only do beaded cloths cover the king’s body, but so do leopard skin bags and metal ornaments. Kings hold the sword of office in their right hand and a lance in their left; because the king is covered in cowries, the Kuba are reminded that he is a descendant of Woot (Cole , 383).

Related image

present ruler, NYIMI KOK MABIINTSH III / King of Kuba / DR Congo