Student Interpretation → Kristin Tibbits

  • Kuba Belt
  • Kuba Belt
  • Kuba Belt
  • Kuba Hat
  • Kuba Hat

Kuba Personal Adornment

These textiles are similar in materials and are symbols of status among the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. These objects are worn in ceremonial and funerary contexts by title-holding individuals. The belts are adorned with geometrically patterned rows of colored glass beads and cowries on woven raffia. Belts like these are worn by the deceased during funerary ceremonies across the waist to emphasize the layers of cloth underneath, representing the wealth and position of the owner. The hats are also decorated with glass beads and cowry shells. The man's hat would be worn by high-ranking men at initiation ceremonies and funerals. This decorated hat is more elaborate than the laket worn daily by Kuba men and the surface is entirely covered with shells and beads, indicating the wealth of the owner. The mpaan, or woman's hat is also worn by women in funerary contexts. It symbolizes a woman's social status and achievements and is buried with her after her death. Historically, cowry shells and beads are imported goods and their use in decorating these objects denotes power and wealth of the wearer as well as the continuity of Kuba traditions.



Kuba People
Democratic Republic of Congo
Hat (kupash)
20th Century
Fabric, glass beads, cowrie shells, cuprous metal
Gift of Rod McGalliard

This hat covered with beads and cowries, called kupash, is one of several types of hats worn in council meetings and ceremonies that reveal rank of the wearer. The beaded adornments of costly imported glass beads and cowrie shells, along with the copper dome on the top, are signs of wealth and high status. The beaded blue and white pattern on the base of this hat is called myeeng, representing fish scales, and is used on garments of royals and nobles.

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