The Kuba King as Artist

June 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

I teach a course in African Art at two colleges in New York City. One group that has always fascinated me is the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There art like that of many people of this region is influenced by textile designs. Another quality of this are is horribilis vacui, or the fear of blank spaces in art and design. Art is completive among the Kuba and is used in the jockeying tools and weapons among the high ranking in the royal court. The king himself must be an artist. He designs mask, dances, textiles, the palace and the list goes on. All the art of the proceeding king is destroyed as a new king he sets the new artistic style in motion. There is a Kuba belt heavy with dense beadwork and shell on display in the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It is a wonder of color and craft. The pendent of conch shells adds a crowning touch! The full regalia of a Kuba king can weigh many pounds and take hours to get into. And in the tropical heath of the Congo, no joy to wear on the part of the monarch who sits in state for hours.


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