Kuba Mukyeem mask
  • Kuba Mukyeem mask
  • Kuba african art mask

Kuba Mukyeem mask


With its abundant cowrie shells and symbolic elephant’s trunk, this mask is the most important of the Kuba royal masks and emphasizes the wealth and power of the nyeem (king). Cowrie shells, imported via the Indian Ocean to the Kasai River region of central Africa, were used as a currency often in exchange for ivory.

As a principal commodity of the transatlantic trade, ivory was strictly controlled by the nyeem.

Additionally, the strength and majesty of an elephant represent ideal characteristics for a king to embody.

This type of mask was often performed with two other royal masks representing the Kuba Kingdom’s mythological founding ancestors and the fundamental roles of the nyeem, women, and commoners in society.

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Data sheet

Presumed dating
Circa 1940
54 cm (68 cm with support)
Ethnic group
Kuba / Bakuba
Cowries, raphia,...
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tribal art collection Belgium

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