Kuba Ceremonial Beaded Belt
An early example of a Kuba beaded belt from the DRC. There are a few cowries missing as can be seen in the photos. On the reverse you can see that it is stitched with plant fibres onto a rough hessian type backing. This measures 91cm long and 6cm at its widest.
Beads and royalty are closely linked in Africa. For centuries, African rulers accumulated valuable, locally made and imported beads. They also controlled their distribution and use. The ownership of large quantities of beads, the variety of exquisite beaded clothing and regalia, and the right to display colourful beaded designs distinguish rulers from the rest of the populace. During public ceremonies, kings wear spectacular arrays of beadwork. They dazzle their subjects with the splendid colours and the unique designs of their royal costumes and regalia.
The Kuba King, the royal family, and members of the court wear beaded clothing and adornment during state occasions. For such events, the king possesses several splendid costumes. The most exquisite and important of all royal ceremonial costumes is bwaantshy . Each king commissioned his own bwaantshy after his enthronement and was buried in it when he died (Cornet, 1982, 245-48). This extravagant royal costume, weighing almost 185 pounds, consists of a tunic embroidered with beads and cowrie shells; several heavy, beaded belts and hip ornaments; necklaces and bracelets; and an ornate headdress with an attached beaded beard.