November 11th, 1993
At the beginning of the 17th century, in the vast Kasaï region, now part of Zaire, where the savannah meets the forest, the great Bushoong tribe subdued seventeen others to form a single powerful group called the Bakuba.
Thus the Kuba kingdom was born.
It was the centre of the world and its king, with the title of Nyimi, was an envoy of the gods.
In the capital of this kingdom, Mushenge, whose gates were entered for the first time by the American explorer Sheppard as late as 1892, the king lived in an immense palace, surrounded
by a host of notables and dignitaries.
Among the absolute privileges of the court were clothes. Magnificently ornate and laden with pearls and shells, they could weigh up to eighty kilos.
Isolated among simpler peoples and aware of their superiority, the Bakuba developed their cultural identity by devoting themselves
to art and decoration.Albeit rotating around the figure of the king, Kuba art
extended to all things, from ordinary objects to palaces: statues, drums, knives, belts, bracelets and necklaces, objects in straw and terracotta, boxes, pipes, bowls and jugs, and finally fabrics… and precisely those fabrics in raffia,
embroidered and velveted, are the best-known
expression of their art.
Made with extreme care by Kuba women
as family dowries and wealth, these “tapestries” are one of the most extraordinary African decorative arts. Absolutely abstract
and in natural colours, they are distinguished by endless geometric motifs, velveted textures of every shape and size.
Besides a conspicuous collection of fabrics of all sizes, Ethnoarte also presents Kuba masks and objects, testifying to one of the most important and prolific visual cultures in Africa.