Kuba Figure of a King, Democratic Republic of Congo
height 28 3/8in (72cm)
ndop, possibly depicting Miko aMablinc maMbul (nyim Mikope Mobinje), the 112th King - Bushoong Dynasty.
Finely carved from hardwood, the king (nyim) is posed in the conventional and traditional style, with idealized traits, seated crossed-legged on a square pedestal (bulell) replicating the padded throne-seat of Kuba kings, with an elaborate carved crisscrossed geometric pattern (ntshuum anyim - the pattern chosen by the king at his coronation) overall. The left hand holds a bird-rooster (a symbol of vigilance to the Kuba), with the right hand resting on the same knee. The king wears the royal objects: a headdress with visor (shody) shading the king's face, carved with cowrie shells around symbolizing authority; a carved neck ring; shoulder hoops of decorated cloth on cane over his shoulders, reserved only for kings; arm strings of woven cloth with cowrie shell (mbuum) on his upper arms; bracelets on his wrists; a wide, woven cowrie shell belt criss-crossed over his abdomen; a plaited belt (mwaan-daan), identifies the king as a council member of the highest order; around his waist holding up an elaborate, ceremonial woven cloth (iyeet), only worn at royal ceremonies, covering his buttocks. The body (torso and legs) is understated between the head and the pedestal, his head oversized, as is traditional in all ndop figures, with a well-defined, shaved hairstyle, scarification on both sides of the head, the projecting face is dominant and full with a calm, benign expression, the eyes almond-shaped and closed, the lips full and relaxed. In front of the pedestal is a decorated drum (pel ambish), the symbol (ibol) of his reign as chosen by the king; smooth and glossy nuanced brown patina with remnants of tukula.
Collected in Mushenge by the administrator of Mweka, ca. 1920
Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, ca. 1960, thence by descent
Private Collection, New York
Published and Exhibited:
L'Art Negre, Dakar-Paris, (1966), no. 535
Galerie Kamer, Arts du Congo, Paris, (1967), no. 15, illustrated.
Yale van Rijn Archive of African Art no. 0005540-01, illustrated.
Note: An old black and white photograph from H. Kamer, with collection information verso, accompanies this piece.
All ndop figures since the 17th century have had various symbols of their reign (ibol). The drum was used as a symbol by different Kuba kings.