Africa; Kuba Kingdom (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Belt, 20th century
Green, white and blue beads; cowrie shells, fiber
overall: 1 3/4 x 43 1/2 in.; 4.445 x 110.49 cm
Gift of Roda and Gil Graham
These types of belts, known as nkody mu-ikup belts, are worn by women on the occasion of festivals, such as the dance itul, when important moments in the history of the Kuba people are celebrated and persons are elevated to the rank of “notables” or chieftaincies. This belt is decorated with cowrie shells laid out in three rows of equal length on either side of a central section in which the design of a square knot appears in green and white beads. This decorative feature is worn at the back of the dancer; the belt is tied in front by strands of fiber or leather.
-John Pemberton III, Curator, Smith College Museum of Art
African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment (2008)