Kuba People of Zaire

Map of Zaire

Republic of Zaire, known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Kuba people of Zaire reside in equatorial Africa between the Kasai and Sankuru Rivers. The region is comprised of 18 distinct sub-groups that were officially organized into a kingdom in the 17th century. The kuba people migrated from West Africa in the Great Bantu Migration in the late 16th century. Their religious beliefs are comprised primarily of belief in the supernatural, and interactions between the living and the dead are a common form of religious practice. The king is the primary force that acts in bridging the gap that exists between the realm of the living and the dead. A significant portion of the culture is based in motif associations, which is reflected in the nature of their primary artistic output, raffia textiles. Kuba textiles are highly desirable by Western standards, and have grown and evolved in tandem with colonization and Western expansion. It is believed that Kuba textiles were major influencers in Western artistic trends like abstraction and Cubism.

The primary language of the Kuba people is Bushong. As aforementioned, multiple ethnic groups make up the population, and each subgroup has a representative present in the Bushoong court. Early European colonization and the slave trade did not impact the Kuba people nearly to the same extent as it did the rest of Africa due to their relative isolation. The Kuba kingdom was not discovered by Westerners until the mid-1800s. As with many other African nations, colonization drastically altered the composition of cultural practices and societal interactions. While the base political structure remains the same, artistic production was completely altered, as were many of the cultural roles and religious practices.