Bakuba Art

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The geometric designs in their textile and those that cover the surfaces of the wooden objects like boxes, cups, masks etc.., are very recognisable but never without that surprising element that makes their art so interesting. The anonymous artists of these magnificent decorations on the weavings are always women and they are amongst the best abstract artists I’ve ever seen. Their sense for abstract art is not only at the level off many famous modern artist but in many cases also the inspiration.

This catalogue is a preview for the exhibition dedicated to the arts of the Bakuba and their refined traditions. For me these objects are examples of the finest craftmanship from the African continent.

The Kuba art is distinctive for its elaborate sense for composition, and the Kuba artists have a natural talent for making abstract compositions. They are harmonious but also challenging and with a great eye for detail.

Royal mask Amwash Amboy Kuba Bushong Republic Democratic of Congo 20th century


The Amwash Amboy mask represents the spirit of the Kuba-Bushong's founder of the royal dynasty, called Woot. The mask dances during important ceremonies and it's only the king or a member from the Royal family that can wear the mask.

The face of the mask is made from the fur of a lynx. The eyes, nose and ears are carved in wood. The nose and eyes are covered with copper and zinc sheets. The beard is made with long white animal hair and decorated with cowrie shells.

Size: +/- 50 cm high including the beard.

-Provenance:Collectedin situ in 1970 ’s. - Belgian private collection since 1998.

The mask represents one of many bush spirits called ‘Ngesh’. When the Bwoom mask dances the top the mask is decorated with eagle feathers only very high ranked nobles can wear. It is a wooden helmet mask and has a big forehead covered with cupper sheet and glass beads.

Royal mask Bwoom Kuba Bushong Republic Democratic of Congo 20th century


Size: 34 cm high

- Renaud Riley, Belgium.


M. Silberman, Alexandria, Virginia, USA.

- Alain Guisson, Brussels.

is the queen mother, she was the spouse and sister of Woot who gave birth to the first king ‘Njim’.

Royal mask NGaady Amwaash Kuba Bushong Republic Democratic of Congo 20th NgaadycenturyAmwaash


Face mask carved in wood and decorated geometric designs painted with natural pigments as kaolin, ochre and red earth. The mask is attached on woven cap in raffia that is covered with cloth, cowrie shells and glass beads. Size: 38 cm high


situ by a Belgian colonial family of wood traders between 1910-20.




This Kete Ngaady Amwash mask is very similar to the same type of the Bushoong royal mask. It represents the spirit of the earth-mother and spouse of the first king and founder of the royal dynasty. The Kete live in the southern part of the Kuba kingdom.

Kete-Kuba Ngaady Amwash mask Republic Democratic of Congo 20th century

Kete-Kuba Kimbonko mask Kete groups, south of the Kuba kingdom Republic Democratic of Congo 20th century The Kete Kimbonko mask only appears dancing with the different Kete groups, south of the Kuba kingdom. The mask has the same chameleon conical eyes as the Pwoom Itok and similar geometrical lines under the eyes as the Ngaady Amwaash -Provenance:masks.JeanneWalschot collection before 1930.


Bongo mask Republic Democratic of Congo 19th to early 20th century

This giant Bongo mask is a variant on the royal Bwoom mask from the KubaNgeende group and it probably has the same function as a spiritual power that empowers the local ruling chefs and nobles. Size: 73 cm high

- Museum of African Ar, Washington, D.C., 1978.



Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1978.

Bronson collection and it’s published in their book about this -Publication:collection.JosephCornet,

'A survey of Zairian Art: The Bronson Collection', 1978, p. 195, fig. -Exhibitions:104.NorthCarolina

- Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, 1979.

- Ex Pierre Dartevelle gallery, Brussels.

- Brought to the Tervuren Afrika Museum by Pr. Defontaine (538-67-60).

Late 18th to early 19th century

Kuba-Bushong cup for palm-wine Republic Democratic of Congo

Size: 18 cm high

- George Hecksher collection, San Francisco.

- Jim and Lin Willis gallery, San Francisco, USA.

-Provenance:Fieldcollected by Vincent Lejeune in 19th century.


This cup is a very classic example of a Bushong man’s cup used during rituals, gatherings and festivities. This cup underlines the hierarchic position of the noble man who owns it.

- Expo cat.: "Die Kunst von Schwarz-Afrika", by Leuzinger (Elsy), Zürich: Kunsthaus Zürich, 1970:#V 13 - Dartevelle (Valérie) & Valentine Plisnier, "Pierre Dartevelle et les Arts Premiers. Mémoire et Continuité", Vol.II. 5 Continents, 2021:314, Fig.402


- Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels, Belgium


-Provenances:HansRöthlingshöfer, Basel, Switzerland

This magnificent wooden box is richly decorated with traditional Kuba geometric designs deeply carved into the surface. On the top of the lid is a spider that also functions as the grip to open the box. These boxes were used to contain the red cam powder ' tukula' that is used as a pigment to color the body for rituals such as funerals or birth. Size: 15.5 cm high and 28 cm wide

Kuba- Bushong tukula box with spider first Republic Democratic of Congo Half 19th century

- Zürich, Switzerland: "Die Kunst von Schwarz-Afrika", Kunsthaus Zürich, 31 October 1970-17 January 1971.

1950 in "Les Arts au Congo Belge et au Ruanda-Urundi"

-Exhibition:Exhibited at the Vaticane cultural center "Les Arts au Congo Belge et au Ruanda-Urundi", 1950.

The drum on the left side is a small drum from the Kuba-Ngongo with a big triangular face with cowrie-inlaid eyes. Out of the mouth under the face comes a handle like a trump of an elephant that ends in a human hand. Size: 57 cm high

-Provenance:ExPierreDartevelle gallery, Brussels.

This type of tall drum is attributed to the Bashilélé but we see it used all over the Size:kingdom.118 cm high

First half of the 20th century


Three drums from Bakuba kingdom Republic Democratic of Congo Lélé drum (middle)

Early 20th century


Lionel Morley Bushong drum (right side)

The drum on the right side is a midsize Bushong drum with a handle starting with an elegant hand on the middle of the belly of the drum and ending with a round human face on top. It is a well used drum with a nice patina. Size: 67 cm high

-Provenance:OldBelgian collection Kuba-Ngongo (left side)

Early 20th century

-Provenance:Belgianprivate collection.


Group of Yeemy shell pendants Republic Democratic of Congo

First half of the 20th century Shells were highly appreciated trading money in the Kuba Kingdom and the high ranked nobles would wear them on their belts or around their neck as symbols of their wealth and status. Size from 10 cm to 19 cm long

Early to mid 20th century These types of pendants were made to hang on a noble man's belt to show his importance or status in the hierarchy of the court and royalty. These belts called "YET" were used around the Tsjak textile wrapped around their middles during official gatherings and festivities. Size : 10 cm to 45 cm long

-Provenance: Belgian private collection


Group of beadwork pendants called lakweemy (harp), Iyul (shell shaped), nkol (kalebas), Ibwoobo (triangle), Mwaang'l (bell) Republic Democratic of Congo

Size: 68 -Provenance:cmExcollection

Ndengese wand Republic Democratic of Congo

Jean Coene (Belgian diplomat in Zaïre).

The Dengese live north from the Kuba royal capital Mushenge and their culture is related to the Kuba peoples.

Early 20th century

This is a rare type of wand or staff made from a well chosen piece of an old piece of liane wood. It represents a snake and is used for speaking justice.


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