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MThe Kuba live in the Lower Kasai region of central Zaire in a rich environment of dense forest and savanna. 
Organized into a federation of chiefdoms, the almost 200,000 Kuba are a diverse group of over eighteen different 
peoples unified under the Bushong king. They share a single economy and, to varying degrees, common cultural 
and historical traditions. Agriculture is the main occupation, supplemented by hunting, fishing, and trading. The 
name "Kuba" comes from the Luba people to the southeast. The Kuba call themselves "the children of Woot"—
after their founding ancestor.


Praised as "God on Earth," the king, nyim, is a divine ruler who controls fertility and communicates with the creator, 
Mboom. The royal court at Nsheng is a hierarchical complex of councils and titled officials who advise the king and 
balance his power. Outlying Kuba chiefdoms are largely autonomous, organized on models analogous to those of 
the capital. The Kuba people prize hard work and achievement.


Bwoom is a wooden helmet mask elucidated by varied oral traditions. The Kuba feel that one " 'understands' the why of something if one knows how it 'began'; something is known if it is explained". Thus 
Bwoom is the spirit first seen by nkan initiates; Tradition traces Bwoom's origin to the reign of King Miko mi-Mbul, who had gone mad. Although he finally became sane, Miko would lapse into madness each time he wore Mwaash aMbooy, the most important royal mask and until then the only one worn by the king himself. A pygmy offered the king Bwoom as an alternative. Suffering no ill effects with the new mask, Miko accepted it. A less dramatic version is that Miko, known as a great dancer, was simply seduced by the pygmy's creation and adopted it despite its humble character. In both cases the King is credited with improvements to the 
mask that justify its inclusion in the royal repertoire.








Kuba Mask

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