There is an excellent and highly detailed article on Kuba royal figures, or ndop, by Monni
Adams entitled "18th-Century Kuba King Figures" which appeared in African Arts Volume
XXI, Number 3 (May, 1988), pp. 32-38, n. p. 88. In addition to tracing the history of the
form to the considerable extent to which it can be determined through historical, symbolic
and stylistic analysis, the article also includes discussion of examples with early collection
histories as well as a scheme for the analysis and comparison of every detail. The scheme
of comparison "adapted from Cornet" includes such details as surface and edge of "hat",
ear shape, hairline, nape, eyebrow, eye form, arm ring, belt, buttock cover, design on
base, heady-to-body proportion, height... (Incidentally, the height range of objects
compared is from 494 to 555 mm.)
Above and beyond these details, there is a passage in Dr. Adams' article regarding the
figure of Shyaam A-Mbul A-Ngwoong in the British Museum (http://
www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/compass/resources/image/large/mm032901.jpg) that I find
particularly worth noting:
"During the 1920's this sculpture became the best-known object of Central African art,
partly because, as identified as the ninety-third king, it was considered to be the oldest
wood sculpture from black Africa and partly because of the style. Its appeal to collectors
was based on its moderate naturalism, smooth surface finish, and expression of quiet
reserve. Its popularity was such that in the 1940s and 1950s, the carving of Kuba king
figures became a major source of income fro sculptors at the Kuba capital and elsewhere
(Vansina 1972: 50)." [Adams, p.34]
The continued commercial popularity of this figure, as described above, can be seen in
images in the Elisofon archives which hosts image of a carver in a village (Slides 358-383)
as well as a classroom where the carving of these figures was still being taught in the
1970's (Images 475-520). Go to http://sirismm.si.edu/siris/eepaculturegroup.htm
In addition to the Cornet book to which you refer, also recommended are books and
articles by Jan Vansina, author of The Children of Woot and Art History in Africa.
--- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "jivarobe" <jivarosprl@...> wrote:
> Dear group,
> could someone tell me more about the Kuba royal sculptures ?
> There are the famous but very few "ndop" sacred sculptures made after
> the kings (which total I believe twelve known sculptures ), and then
> apparently some more recent (?) ones, perhaps made since the 1910's
> (king Pot a-Pey).
> I came accross an example of those, which to me look like the King Kot-a
> Mbweeky considering the parrot shown on the base (amazingly it is the
> same king as the one illustrated by Bacquart but not identified, see
> I know that Cornet has touched upon the topic but I haven't yet been
> able to get a copy of his book on the Kuba royal arts.
> According to J-B Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, p.172 & 3, picture
> 11, it is a "Bushoong" king figure which has an apotropaic role in
> childbirth. Quite a different role than a sacred ndop I would imagine !
> Any more on this ? How frequent are these figures on the market ? Any
> knwon recent sales ?
> I have taken some pictures, but it seems the photo album is now full and
> doesn't allow any uploads anymore. I have taken the liberty to email
> them to Rand, perhaps would he find a way to share them ?
> Thank you !