Student Interpretation → Kristin Tibbits
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.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Belt (mukody mu-ikup lakiing)
Raffia, glass beads, cowrie shells
Gift of Rod McGalliard
2 ½ x 52 ¾ in. (6.4 x 134 cm)
Narrow belts with beaded knots are usually worn by women. The laborious process of making the bead-covered knot is a challenge to the beadworker’s skill. It is adorned with rows of cowries, which formerly served as currency, as a sign of both wealth and beauty. The glass beads, imported from Europe, were also favorite embellishments that call attention to the wearer’s wealth and prestige.