|EARTH METROPOLIS AFRICAN ART|
|ClaudeClark.org/apparel | Educ. | African | Kuba | African Studies | Sheppard | Dogon | Yoruba | Akan Art |Edo Art ||
|Central Basin |Trade | Two Congos | An Administrative Issue | | Arsenal | Matrifocal | Colonial View of African Art | | | | ||
|Kuba Raffia Cloth||Enema Flask||Kuba Chief||Kuba King||Kuba Mask|
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Kuba Wine Cup
Kuba Carved Hand
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Kuba Wood Dog Oracle
Kuba Cosmetic Boxes
Kuba Wood Drum
Kuba Crown for a King
Kuba Headgear for a chief
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Kuba Wood Cup
Kuba Clay Pot
Kuba Wood Box
Kuba Iron Knife
Kuba Wine Vessel
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Kuba Bead & Shell Hat
Kuba Carving Axe
Kuba Wooden Box
As you look at the classical art items shown above, you will not see any gold, silver, diamonds, bronze cast, ivory, ebony wood, very little cotton and no silk; yet every item shown above on this page can fetch up to three figures and more at a good auction. There are no exceptions. How can that be? More than half of these items will fetch four figures and several items will take five. Among the best of the items you only need to sell one to buy a new car. The artists have used only raffia, clay, wood, ceramic beads, shells and iron which are some of the cheapest items you can use to create art; yet this art is worth thousands. Welcome to Kuba Traditional African Art. We will explore in depth how this work came into being.
On the African Studies Art page in the essay titled “Tradition” we will show you how to begin distinguishing traditional African art from Western Art. Then the next step will be suggestions on designing and marketing African Western products. You need to keep in mind that once you integrate African art with Western art anyone seeing what you have accomplished can do exactly the same things they see you do, because they are apart of the same culture, though there ethnic origin may be different than yours. You are an outsider to African culture and they are an outsider to African culture. You and I may be biologically African but our cultural rights don’t belong to us until proven. Your biological stamp is no guarantee to success with the same biological culture. If you want to succeed and do well, I suggest that you part with most of your Western activities accept for the ones that are directly needed and absolutely necessary for your economic success in connection with this endeavor. Parting with friends is included, because you are going to need new ones. You will need to begin focusing an African world and shutting out the immediate world around you.
AN ADVOCATE OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE & PRODUCT DEVLOPMENT
This one man, Nyimi Kot Mabiinc, is trying to produce a market and international trade in art for his community. The Kuba have for several centuries been known to be strong advocates in promoting traditional artists among their nobility and common people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not even have a Minister of Trade and Department of Commerce that can handle this mans needs. The Congo has an extraction based economy not a trade and commerce economy. Prices for natural resources are already set by colonial powers. There is no need to bargain and set prices for minerals and other natural resources. That was done by the colonial powers that own the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This country’s basic energies are focused on moving raw materials from its interior to the docks on the Atlantic and devotes very little time and expenditures to anything else. Its export facility has what amounts to a “Minister of Extraction” and a “Department of National Resources”. The Congo is not noted for marketing hand made goods, manufactured goods and services and therefore Nyim Mabiinc’s country cannot meet his needs. Nyim Mabiinc can not wait until his country’s central government has an export marketing infrastructure in place. He must find another way to market art.
A Chronological History of the Peoples in Southern Sudan Central African Republic & Two Congo-s
Charles Dumas (African Chronologist & Art Supplier)
Edited by Claude Lockhart Clark
The catalyst and inspiration for this project was due to an African Art supplier and griot named Charles Dumas. He worked full time as an art dealer in the U.S. and told lengthy stories connected with each art item he sold. Dumas was originally from Congo Brazzaville. His father was from Mali and his mother was Kuba from Kasia Province in Congo Kinshasa. These chronicles are not about Mr. Dumas’ life and family. They are a record of Central African people and his wife’s two hundred years extended family history. Her father, grandfather and great grandfather were art collectors in the Kuba Kingdom. They collected sculpture, clothes, tools and raffia cloth from their own people and surrounding neighbors. Each item in the art collection carried its own story. These stories later became chronicles of the collector’s children and their in-laws, serving to galvanize their family’s genealogy and the connection they had with a larger African community and its cultural history. This story is about a family human saga that continues to flourish even to this day.
This story is about three generations of medical doctors, or physicians that practice their craft in two different worlds. The first two generations practiced bumba (the power of medicine). Their practice was a world of magic and cures and more important than cures, they practiced preventive medicine and the use of vaccines which did not become known to Europeans until the 1920’s. The third generation doctor did not practice bumba. His father who practiced bumba sent his son to school to practice Western medicine. This son recorded all of his father’s stories and interest in collecting art then passed the knowledge of the stories and interest in art on to his son-in-law, Charles Dumas.
We will study art work from three generations of art collectors and one generation dealership. This family art heritage covers almost two hundred years of Kuba culture in Kasia Province. We will study how the collectors and dealer in each generation acquired art and what they did with it. What was their purpose in acquiring so much art? The collectors were massing a horrendous amount of art and textile archives that in later years would turn into immense bridle wealth and bridle dowries making it very difficult for young suitors to come up with a descent bride price for available women in that family household. We will study the social political economic innovations that made it possible for craftsmen to specialize in so many different types of crafts full time during the Kuba Golden Age. Next we will cover influence of commerce, surrounding cultures and environment. We will show how each had an effect on the culture of Kuba people. We will begin this study by examining the matrilineal system.
First we will do a quick overview of the history of Kuba early beginnings then do an in-depth study later in the chapter. Kuba are located in the South Eastern forest basin of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Great Equatorial Forest along the Sankuru, Kasai and Lulua Rivers in Kasai Province. They called themselves BaKuba (people of the throwing knife). Agricultural settlements began to appear in the basin between 1000 and 1500 A.D. as a result of settlers coming in the region. About 1625 A.D. a leader by the name of Shyaam came in from the Azande and Mangbetu region in Southern Sudan with a people known as Bushongo. Shyaam introduced many new things into Kuba Land; some of the more interesting items were plants such as maize, cassava and tobacco, which were not native to Africa. Those plants came from the Americas. Cassava was introduced by the Portuguese and the other plant may have been introduced by other means. The Bushongo set themselves up as rulers and reorganized Kuba political economics and imposed a tax on village communities’ thus increasing agriculture production. The agriculture culture calendar was restructured so that the yield increased three fold. With the presence of more food production and increased trade, Kuba people had more time to spend doing other things, thus a golden age of art began.
CONGO KINSHASA IS A EUROPEAN UTOPIAN ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUE
There is only one type of economy in operation in African countries below the Sahara Desert. It is an extraction economy. None of these countries have a trade economy or an industrial economy. The civil service in Africa is trained to handle extraction not trade. Europeans never wanted anything that Africans made, so there was never any trade between the Sub Sahara portion of the African Continent and the continent of Europe; only extraction. All of those stories about the splendor of West and Central African wealth are misleading. The stories are true as stories go but the focus of the person telling each story is focused on mineral wealth. The stories about the splendor, clean city streets, buildings and gold attracted venture capitalists that had other plans. None of the writers seamed interested in the colorful clothes the citizens wore. They were not interested any of the furnishings found inside kings palaces. The British when they stormed the Oba’s palace in Benin and stole bronze plaques and other relics they didn’t decorate the king’s palace in England with bronze plaques. They dumped the relics on the floor in some storage; later to find their way to museums.
Graduates in business and economics go home to their respective countries in Africa and get appointed to offices with lofty tiles of Department of Commerce, Minister of Trade and Commerce, etc. Commerce is about trade in goods and services. What do you have to trade and what goods do you have to sell? And services? - I hope we are not planning to provide male and female prostitutes, because neo-colonialists are already raping the land. Quit pussy footing and tell truth. You ain’t nothin’ but a Minister of Extraction and you work for the Department Cash Crop and Natural Resources. Be honest about what you do. Don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes, because you got cataracts on yours. This same criticism can be posted for Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana or what ever. We are all in the same dog house together, trying to feed puppy chow to a Doberman pinscher, and personally I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don’t care what you think. I am going to tell it like it is because I am too old, too ignorant and too ugly to care anymore - Peace.
The old strategies used during the time of King Leopold are still in use today because the citizens of the Congo don’t remember the past. They were either too young when Belgium was running the Congo or their grandparents and great grandparents failed to tell them about their past. In Africa many people were in self-denial about colonialism which robed their children of valuable knowledge need to insure their independence. Citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are signing their land away to Neo-Colonialist because they are illiterate; don’t know how to read. They put a thumb print on a piece of paper and the land that was once theirs is gone. The whole Congo territory was signed away by some unknown citizen living on the Atlantic Coast two centuries ago and Belgium’s King Leopold’s meeting with Englishman Henry Morton Stanley helped secure the interior. Many other African countries experienced the same fate.
The same thing is true about African American slavery in the United States of America. Ex-Slaves did not tell their children about the cultural holocaust their ancestors went through and the ones that survived the middle passage either didn’t live long enough to learn a new language or were too indifferent about their New World cousins to tell them anything.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is being used as a test case for setting up confederacies across the Africa continent, which will further weaken larger countries by dividing them up into semi-independent states. Military unites in African countries will be very small, making it easier for neocolonialist to control them. Outside military support, when needed will come from neocolonialist who will deliver most of the support by air and use limited ground support. UN peace keepers will continue to do what they have been doing in the past by getting in the way and favoring the imperialist. The central governments will be virtually ineffective because imperialist can fly planes and land in any one of the semi-independent Confederacy Providences with out going through federal check points. This way neocolonial imperialist can reclaim all African land without federal intervention. In large countries, federal governments will have too few staff members to check for illegal intruders.
Excuse me – What does all this have to do with producing art? How come we can’t talk about art and leave the rest of the imperialist stuff alone? Because they are not going to leave you alone; that’s why. Artist and writers are on their hit list. If you don’t believe me check history. It repeats itself.
I have included military toys of mass destruction, but I do not need to elaborate on them because you are capable of doing that yourself. My expertise is the ability to decode culture in such a way that I can predict disaster before it happens. The same tools that I use to discriminate traditional indigenous culture and art are exactly the same ones I use to analyzing Europe and the West. For me doing one or the other is piece of cake. One day some of you are going to have to learn how to do the same things I do because I won’t always be round to do it for you. I can never be accused of giving out classified information, because if that is what I am suppose to be doing then I would have to first get the classified information from someone.
The U.S. Africom appears harmless, but one thing I would like to bring your attention to is that Africom will be training military personnel in African countries as well as “protecting African countries from harm”. When a country trains its own military the military is loyal to them, but when an outsider trains your military it is loyal to the outsider. That is plain common sense. You don’t need a college degree in political science in order to figure that out.
Europe has been building an offense weapon program of its own, focusing on air arsenals. It hopes to use these crafts when needed to police activities in its Neo-colonies. The Airbus aircraft family of commercial and military planes is just one dimension of a much larger company known as European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company N.V. (EADS) which was registered in the Netherlands. Note: any of these programs that have the word defense as apart of their title are misrepresenting themselves. They are not defense programs they are offense weapon programs. The following quote is taken from Wikipedia the online free encyclopedia. © Claude Lockhart Clark May 08, 2013
In June 1997, British Aerospace Defense Managing Director John Weston commented "Europe... is supporting three times the number of contractors on less than half the budget of the U.S." European governments wished to see the merger of their defense manufacturers into a single entity, a European Aerospace and Defense Company.
As early as 1995 the German aerospace and defense company DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (DASA) and its British counterpart British Aerospace were said to be eager to create a transnational aerospace and defense company. The two companies envisaged including the French company Aérospatiale, the other major European aerospace company, but only after its privatization. The first stage of this integration was seen as the transformation of Airbus from a consortium of British Aerospace, DASA, Aérospatiale and Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA into an integrated company; in this aim BAe and DASA were united against the various objections of Aérospatiale. As well as Airbus, British Aerospace and DASA were partners in the Panavia Tornado and Euro fighter Typhoon aircraft projects. Merger discussions began between British Aerospace and DASA in July 1998, just as French participation became more likely with the announcement that Aérospatiale was to merge with Matra and emerge with a diluted French government shareholding. A merger was agreed between British Aerospace Chairman Richard Evans and DASA CEO Jürgen Schrempp in December 1998. However when the British General Electric Company put its defense electronics business Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) up for sale on 22 December 1998, British Aerospace abandoned the DASA merger in favor of purchasing its British rival. The merger of British Aerospace and MES to form BAE Systems was announced on 19 January 1999 and completed on 30 November. Evans stated in 2004 that his fear was that an American defense contractor would acquire MES and challenge both British Aerospace and DASA.”
KUBA ARE A MATRILINEAL AND MATRIFOCAL SOCIETY
It is very important that you obtain an understanding of the family’s matrilineal concept because anything I say about them and their art collection will leave you in a quandary and totally confused if you don’t. Matrilineal thinking is quite different from patrilinaeal thinking. The view of the world is very different when viewed from either of the one of the two perspectives. You might say that matrilineal and patrilinaeal marriages are just two different practices not thought. They have nothing to do with changing your way of thinking or how you see and interpret the world around you. Two patrilinaeal people can see exactly the same thing but interpret it different so how is that different from what matrilineal people see and interpret? Matrilineal see the exactly what patrilinaeal people see and two matrilineal people seeing the same thing interpret it different. That is only partly true. Patrilinaeal is a cultural concept which is male driven and matrilineal is a cultural concept which is also male driven. The difference is first one is exclusive and only focused on the male driving himself and his own testicles. The woman in his household emerges from one of his floating ribs and serves him as an appendage. The second example is inclusive, including at least two people a woman and a man; the male drives himself and someone else’s with the ovaries. The end results are that a woman emerges as an indispensible resource and investment in her family’s economy. The role playing in these two families are going to be entirely different. Now you tell me how those two worlds are going to think and act the same. Trust me; they don’t.
In the legal since a matrilineal family relationship is always an inclusive, extended relationship and never a nuclear family relationship. A patrilinaeal family relationship is always exclusive and can be setup as an extended family relationship or turned into a nuclear family relationship very easily. The first type of family, matrilineal relationship, is about partnership and group relations while the other, patrilinaeal relationship, is about playing solitary. The patrilinaeal “Last Will and Testament” might read something like this “I, John Doe Sr. and my wife Jane Doe are trustee of this estate. If I should demise first my wife listed as second trustee will make sure this Last Will and Testament will be administered as I have written. After she passes the Chief Executor of the Will goes to my eldest son John Doe Jr. I elect my second son Joe Doe to execute this will as it is written if something should happen to John Jr.” The matrilineal “Last Will and Testament” might read as follows “I Joseph Niduyo senior brother and my sister Mee Mee Niduyo are trustee of this estate. Her personal effects and accounts have always been maintained by the Council of Niduyo Brotherhood. If my sister’s husband David Mite should pass before her I Joseph Niduyo president of the Niduyo Brotherhood am prepared to execute the Will. The question is “Why is the will written for her if she is trustee and not her children? Who is this Brotherhood? The answer is her situation requires more than one trust for the fact that it is an extended family plural relationships and not nuclear or single relationship. The husband is not responsible for picking up the tab for wife support in his own absence. Her matrilineal extend family is responsible. The brotherhood tries to collect as much bounty and legal tender (bride price, bride wealth and bride dowry will be covered in next paragraph) from the groom before the marriage so that they can use it to increase family wealth in case a female member of the family needed the finances later on for herself and for the children.
A young groom or perhaps should we say not so young groom would have a rough time obtaining a bride in some matrilineal families, in particularly the very wealth households. The groom will often hire an experienced go between to serve as his magistrate. It is important that uncles and the “brotherhood” fetch a good bride price for their lady. They increase the bride’s dowry by milking the groom for more bounty and legal tender for themselves which is not always in the lady’s best interest, but in families where the schemes are well orchestrated it can work wonders for everyone involved; for example if a household contains uncles and brotherhood art collectors then it might be well that the ladies spouse go into the art business to make a handsome future for himself while at the same time increasing his wife’s family revenue. It is not only practical, but it makes good since.
The families in most parts of Africa are matrilineal as are most people living under the sun in old world communities. Property and wealth are passed unilaterally by way of the mother’s lineage. Kinship is bilateral relationship. Kuba practice simple exogamy. Exogamy means to marry outside a culturally defined group which in this case is family. Endogamous marriages occur only within a defined group. The preople of India marry within their cast, never outside the cast group, theoretically. Exogamous families are prevented from marring any known kinship from both sides of the family. They have to seak marriage outside their family unites. It has only been in recent times as results from the spread of Islam after 600 A.D. and dawn of Western Civilization that African communities began adopting patrilinaeal practices. In matrilineal households brothers and uncles of the bride are in control of family wealth. All wealth passes through the mother rather than by way of the father. Both male and female off springs carry their mother’s maiden name. In recent years Kuba have been becoming matrilocal. The husband lives among his wife's people and their children’s lineage is traced bilateral through both parents. In some households of that type the children carry the last name of their father and in other households they continue to follow the mother’s last name. But in each case the rules are similar; wealth is passed though the female thus we call this practice matrilocal as opposed matrilineal. The two practices matrilocal and matrilineal in many ways are the same yet slightly different.
While we are on the subject of matrilineal don’t get matriarch confused with matrilineal. The only thing similar about those two situations is that the individuals are both born with ovaries as opposed to having testicles like a man. Everything else about them is entirely different. First of all there have been very, very few social systems in history of mankind that were run by females’ generation after generation. Most matriarchs have been family matriarchs and not society matriarchs. Polyandry is practiced legally in societies where women are allowed to marry more than one husband simultaneously. In those societies women don’t rule the culture; the men do. If a housewife takes a man’s paycheck, pays all of the bills, pays herself a handsome salary; then puts her husband on an allowance that most likely is a family matriarch.
COLONIAL & NEOCOLONIAL VIEW OF AFRICAN ART IN THEIR OWN WORDS
This section will start with colonial interest and written response concerning African Art by anthropologist and art/artifact enthusiast then proceed to neocolonial view of African art. The earliest example that we have posted concerning a colonial view of African art is a publication by Paul S, Wingert produced in 1948. This publication would have been considered positive and progressive during its day. I would even go as far to say that Wingert’s article rivals some of the writings done on African Art produced during the 1960’s. Keep in mind the views and choice of words stem from the colonial or neocolonial culture from which a person was born and raised. In this case Wingert would be considered a product of colonialism, he lived to experience both colonial and neocolonial cultures. The written articles posted are a reflection of the colonist and neo-colonist cultural state of mind and has little or nothing to do directly with government policies being issued in Africa.
Something needs to be said about the colonized. In the United State of America, often African Americans are called to head and direct something African that they know very little about. They end up depending colonial experts to help them hold their act together. Their introductory presentations about African Art have almost no depth to them and are confusing to look at; giving rapid snapshots of social activities, diverse art objects and conflicting cultural point of views all mixed up like gumbo with any and everything is the rule. The colonized look at Africa from outside like spectators or foreigners as though the content of African Art has little or nothing to do with them; or they view Africa as though there is some kind of biological claim that has to do with the pigmentation of one’s own skin rather than cultural content and acquired skills.
I experienced first hand the colonized and then colonial and later the neocolonialist view of African Art during my childhood and early adolescences between the 1950’s and 1960’s. Those formative years are the years in which I developed the approach that I use to develop traditional African Art practice and theory. Basically the same material is available to the public today, but with one difference. My father and his students were the colonized and I was extremely critical of everything they were doing based on pictures that I that I had seen produced by the colonialist who took pictures of African art back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. A young person today or back then may not have a chance to see young adults trying to break the chains of territory, so they may have to reinvent the wheel themselves. There is enough positive information to get persons started whom are interested in departing from Western Civilization. If one begins early enough they can determine which Western values they want to get rid of and which ones they want to keep. If you don’t make a conscious effort to change and begin too late Western Civilization will have taken its toll and begin controlling you. You won’t be the one making the decisions about life, because the Western culture will make the decisions for or with you. You will not make most of the decisions by yourself. This is true with any culture. African culture is the same; it will gain as much control over you as you let it.
KUBA ARE A RAIN FOREST RIVER PEOPLE
The Kuba people lived in Western Kasai Provence, Congo Kinshasa (former Belgium Congo). They were the art rock concerning fine arts culture in the Central African Region and Congo Republic when it came to artistic influence and artistic skills in that part of Africa. They were not a large community, but they knew how to make their presence felt.
Many ethnic people in the region have been inspired to do quality craftsmanship because of either their direct presence with or indirect association with Kuba people. Kuba rank alongside Benin, Oyo and Ashanti of West African Empires when it comes to exerting massive amounts energy, power, and diversity into the fine arts of Central Africa and two Congo s.
Bushongo migrated from the Southern Sudan Region to their current location along the Sankuru River in Western Kasai Providence during the 16th century. When they arrived they found the Twa people living there. The Twa people eventually were absorbed into what later became known as the Kuba Kingdom and Empire. Kuba close neighbors are the Chokwe, Luba, Luluwa and Lele peoples. Kuba Kingdom was comprised of numerous smaller ethnic groups, including the Bushongo, Ngeende, Kel, Pyaang, Bulaang, Bieeng, Ilebo, Idiing, Kaam, Ngoombe Kayuweeng, Shoowa, Bokila, Maluk, and Ngongo. The King of Kuba was always Bushongo. Each of the ethnic groups had a representative in residence at the Bushongo court. The king and chiefs all had bumba (the power medicine) which all chiefs and king had to learn and master before coming chief or king. Since all rulers had the same power each magistrate ruled his own town and the “kings rule stops at the village gate” so to speak.
THE TWA ARE A RAIN FOREST LAND BASED PEOPLE
Both the Kuba and Twa people lived in the forest region of Kasai. The Kuba were river people and the Twa people occupied the forest interior. The Twa people were the original inhabitant of the Kasai region and many other places in Central Africa. They were found in many places outside Africa as well: Philippians, Island of New Guinea and Tasmania Island (where they were exterminated by the British). They were a very short people between three and a half feet tall to four feet. Those were normal heights. There are no people that short anymore. Today’s Twa people average around five feet tall. There were occasional dwarfs among these people. Dwarfs were the same height, but body proportions were different. The Twa often referred to themselves as “children of the forest”. Once they were primarily food gathers and hunters. Today in many Twa communities in Africa you will find them doing farming. They had a close attachment to nature and the Kuba inherited that trait from them.
The rivers which define the Kuba territory provide the fish consumed in the area. The Kuba people also farmed maize and cassava, both of which were imported from the new world during and before the 1500’s. Fufu was introduced by the Portuguese from their colony in Brazil. Fufu is made from cassava. Maize was introduced much earlier, before Columbus by Africans that sailed to the New World from Mali. Kuba men wove beautiful raffia cloth, which was embroidered by the women and traded to surrounding areas. The following account was given by Professor James Giblin, Department of History, at University of Iowa – and Claude L. Clark at Earth Metropolis.
“The Kuba state developed east of the confluence of the Sankuru and Kasai rivers, a region whose mixture of forest, savannah and rivers, and variety of vegetation and animal life, attracted settlers from the less diverse forest environment north of the Sankuru. Settlers gradually drifted into the Kuba region between 1000 and 1500 A.D., initially forming small communities. About 1600, a dynamic leader named Shyaam migrated into Kuba country from the west, and established a new kingdom. Throughout the remainder of the 17th century, Shyaam¹s successors increased the size of their realm. They established a government which balanced power among the royal family, aristocrats and the bureaucrats who collected taxes and presided over courts.
The leading historian of the Kuba, Jan Vansina, has shown how the kingdom created a dynamic economy capable of supporting a remarkable artistic culture. During the 17th century, farmers adopted numerous new crops, including maize (corn), cassava, peanuts, sweet potatoes, chili peppers and tobacco, which were brought to Africa from the Americas by European slave traders. For even though the Kuba lived far from the Atlantic ports where Europeans traded, long-distance trade routes brought these crops to them. Like the leaders of modern states, Kuba rulers used taxation to force their citizens to become more productive. Kuba farmers responded by reorganizing their agricultural calendar to allow two or three maize harvests per year, modifying the division of labor between men and women, and allowing men to marry at a younger age. Because unmarried men did not farm, changing the age of marriage drew young men into agricultural work.
Vansina believes that these changes doubled the output of farming communities, and improved the standard of living of the entire Kuba population. Production of an agricultural surplus allowed the Kuba to increase their trade. Not only did they participate in trade networks which reached the Atlantic coast, but also traded with the peoples of the forests to the north and the savannahs of the south, including the Luba. To the Luba they sent cloth, ivory, mats, camwood and smoked meat and fish, and received in return slaves, copper, pottery and medicines. Kuba involvement in commerce continued to increase until they fell under the colonial rule of Belgium in the early 1900s.”
Both Professor James Giblin and Jan Vansina seam to suggest that Kuba art expantion and specialization were a result of improved economics leveraging of farmers and local population, expansion of trade and an abundant food supply.
AZANDE PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN SUDAN
The Azande people of southern Sudan are noted for their magic and extraordinary healing powers. The Kuba people received their knowledge of herbal medicine and magic from the Azandi.
We often miss information about a culture and its people when we ignore influences from communities that live close or at a distance. We are getting inside information from an African art trader whose in-laws were art collectors for three generations. We acquire different information about a particular group of people by obtaining information from different members of their society. The King or linguist may not have told us everything. Or they may have mentioned important information but failed to elaborate because they did not think it was that important; or you may be the problem. Perhaps you did not see enough physical evidence connected with the information given to merit you doing further study.
The Western mind sees the whole world in short synopsis snapshots. They do not have a since of the distance of time. They are only familiar with the moment because for them everything happens so quickly. The most important period, to them, is the future. When you shift from the fast track to the rest of the world you need to slow down and “digest”. “You do not want to taste the world on an upset stomach because you will end up learning nothing and losing everything.” Feb. 19, 2013.
In the old world time stops because time’s movement is not noticeable and future is for ever present; never distant. Only the past severs to measure time, distance and dimension. The West has very little since of past. To them past becomes a lack of availability or something that is no longer serving any use.
AZANDE EFFIGY BURIAL STATION POT
The item shown above was an Azande “effigy station pot” from Northern Congo Kinshasa owned by Mite Margaret Niduyo’s great grandfather Mite (low “e” sound) from Niangara Kasai Provence in Congo Kinshasa. Mite was a chief and medicine man had necessary tools needed to understand the ways of the West. The town of Niangara was considered the center of the earth. Originally there were a set of four station pots each hidden five footsteps from one of four compass points to a human’s body. Head would be facing east, feet west and the arms north and south. Each pot contained herb medicine and valuable items of the deceased.
The smaller examples of clay pots shown above this paragraph are all Kuba pots. The three views of the large illustrated pot are Azande. What we can learn from this lesson is when the practices and images of diverse ethnic groups are the same then it is easy to share in the same activities and same art even though the styles may be different, the purpose and practice of the item is the same. Studies of African Art Collections, in Africa can provide useful information concerning the different uses and practice of each art type, weather the group being studied provides the answer themselves or their close or distant neighbor provides it for them the exchange is important in holding each one’s cultural fabric together. Who knows perhaps the smaller illustration of earth ware depict station pots as well? The Kuba people make and use burial station pots as well and their use of the pots and practice is the same as Azande people.
All of these pots were made by hand without a potter’s wheel and many were built to hold water. Designs appear on all of the pots.
KUBA MBO STATUE OF A NYIM
Kuba had strong ties with the Azande and Mangbetu in the North. They trade with one another and shared their knowledge of preventative medicine. Mbo was the name applied to commemorative statues of kings and chiefs. All chiefs and Kings learn to use bumba (the power medicine) taught to them by their predecessors and the Azande and Mangbetu. The Mbo figure of a chief shown on this page has a medicine rattle in left hand and medicine poaches around his waist. The owner of the statue was Dr. Mite Mashwa father to Mite Margaret Niduyo wife of Charles Dumas. Dr. Mite Mashwa was a physician. The “e” sound in Mite was normal tone. The great grandfather and father’s names were not the same. Dr. Mite Mashwa was trained in Western medicine and not trained in bumba (the power medicine) as used by the Kuba and Azande people. He only knew the stories.
The statue represents an Mbo of Chief or Nyim from the town of Mweka Musega. It was carved by a wood carver that saw and knew the Nyim. This information is important because many of the carved Mbo statues were done by craftsmen whom never saw the diseased. Wood sculptures don’t last more than a hundred years in tropical environment so they were being constantly replaced.
The Mbo of Chief Nyim from the Mite Niduyo collection had one other feature not seen in most other Mbo. The finish on top of the wood looks liked some form of lacer produced by the Kuba people which might mean that both a wood carver and a surface finish expert worked on the same sculpture.
Both men and women woodcarvers worked on the same Mbo statues. The man that carved this Mbo statue carved the form of the statue and all of the high relief. A woman then worked on this same statue carving the line and low relief. Her carving is reflected in the both the cap and base of this particular figure. All of the older carvings are worked on in this way by both a male and female craftspersons. Most people don’t know that. This is a strange phenomenon that rarely occurs in traditional African art. Women are known to surface finish and paint wooden sculptures but not carve them.
Most of the Mbo sculptures have collar bones. The earlier sculptures make the collar bone abstract so that it is hard to tell what it is. The Mbo of Chief Nyim shows the collar bone European style. That sculpture was made during the early part of the twentieth century (early 1900’s). The Mbo carvings are carved from the secret wood of the iluuntsh tree (Crosopterix febrifuga). The Bushongo Kings Mbos are easy to identify because each Mbo depicts an attribute that each ruler was noted for. If you were a very popular ruler the decedents would keep making copies of their ancestor’s Mbo. Mbo Shyaam Mbula Ngoong had a game board mounted on a pedestal as his attribute. The game was known as lela or lyeel and King Shyaam obtained the game from East Africa. Lela was known as Mankala in East Africa and mankala might have come from Indonesia. The game in Indonesia had seven seeds in each of the seven holes on either side of the game board and was played counter clockwise. There were two empty holes one at either end of the game board bring the total holes to sixteen. In South East Asia the game is know as sungka. By time the game was introduced to East Africa two holes were missing from the board, bring the total to fourteen holes with four seeds in each of the twelve of the holes. Some where between Central Africa and West Africa the game lost the two end holes and was left with six holes and four seeds in each hole. The Yoruba in Nigeria called the game Ayo. The story did not end there. Africans had to take the game to the new world and there Native Americans played twelve holes using only three seeds for each of the twelve holes. It was said that King Shyaam introduced the game lela to the stop gambling among the Kuba people. The Mbo of King Pelyeeng a Ntshe shows a parrot emerging from the base.
Kuba people produce the largest variation of art forms in Central Africa and Central Basin. Their designs in sculpture were mostly influenced by weaving. Raffia weaving was the principle textile in the region. Cotton was not used in that part of Africa before European Colonial times. Cotton revolution took place in Nile Valley, Punt and West Africa prior to Arab invasion and Western Colonialism. © starting February 2, 2013 @ earthmetropolis.com