Among the best known of Kuba art forms are royal portrait figures, ndop. Kuba kings are commemorated in conventionalized carved wooden statues. They are idealized representations of the king. Their goal is not to depict the physical features of the subject, but to portray them in the "archaic style". They are usually graced by traditional royal headdress and distinguished by details of the royal regalia and by the ibol, an object situated in front of the ruler. It is the ibol  that symbolizes specific ruler and his reign. This statue has a semi-circular object in front of it. It might be a divination board or a mankala game board on platform. There is a Ndop Booshong statue at the British Museum, depicting the founder of Kuba Matoon dynasty of the early 17th century - he has an ibol of a very similar mankala in front of it.




 The ceremony of royal investiture included a tradition where the new king recited all the names of his predecessors. Thus names of all the Kuba kings are known.

 Kuba traditions maintain that if the ndop figure becomes damaged, an exact copy is made to replace it.

"Heroic Africans" -  the 2011 Exhibit at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed an impressive number of seated ndop statues.


Written by Vera Raskin — October 13, 2014

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