Kuba Tribe of Africa: African People and Tribes

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Location: Southeastern Congo (Zaire), Africa

Population: 250,000

Language: BaKuba (central Bantu)

Neighboring Peoples: Chokwe, Luba, Luluwa, Lele

Types of Art: Aside from the beautiful cloth mentioned above, the Kuba also produce carved wooden masks and figures. They also carve headrests, divination oracles, and anthropomorphic cups.

History: In the 16th century, the Kuba peoples migrated from the distant north to their current location along the Sankuru River. When they arrived, however, they found that the Twa already lived there. The Twa were eventually absorbed into the Kuba Kingdom, but retained some independent cultural characteristics. 

The height of the Kingdom was during the mid-19th century. Europeans first reached the area in 1884, but the Kuba, being relatively isolated, were not as affected by the slave trade as many of the other peoples in the area. The Nsapo invaded during the late 19th century, and the Kingdom was broken up to a large extent.

Economy: The rivers which define the Kuba territory provide the fish consumed in the area. They also farm maize and cassava, both of which were imported from the new world. The Kuba weave beautiful raffia cloth, which is embroidered by the women and traded to surrounding areas.

Political Systems: The Kuba Kingdom is actually comprised of numerous smaller ethnic groups, including the Bushoong, Ngeende, Kel, Pyaang, Bulaang, Bieeng, Ilebo, Idiing, Kaam, Ngoombe Kayuweeng, Shoowa, Bokila, Maluk, and Ngongo. The King of Kuba is always Bushoong. Each of the ethnic groups has a representative in residence at the Bushoong court.

Religion: The Kuba oral history tells of the creation of the world by Bumba, who decreed that the Bushoong would always be the ruling class. This creator god is not formally worshiped. At one time the Kuba had a religion based on ancestor worship, but this seems to have died out, although divination is still practiced in order to discover causes of evil. Success during hunting is recognized as a gift from the gods. It is not incidental that diviners often employ carved wooden hunting dogs as rubbing oracles in order to arrive at their knowledge. Dogs are seen throughout the region as responsible for delivering the will of the god, whether it be through hunting or through the diviner.


Credits:  Christopher D. Roy also see credit page
Professor of the History of Art
The University of Iowa