Kuba prestige cups hold palm wine, a drink served on special occasions. The dense geometric, carved patterns on the cups derive from textile designs and reflect the Kuba aesthetic preference for overall decorative patterning. This cup in the form of a head depicts the distinctive swept-back hairstyle associated with male royalty.
This cup was one of several objects given to photographer Eliot Elisofon by the Kuba king (nyim) Mbopey Mabiintsh ma-Kyeen on the occasion of Elisofon doing a photo essay featuring the king for Life magazine in 1947.
Wood cup in the form of a human head with flaring opening on top, interlace bands on neck, C-form handle on back, swept back cross hatch coiffure, facial scarifications, and prominent almond eyes.
Eliot Elisofon, New York, collected Mushenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1947 to 1973
Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 21, 2013-December 14, 2014
African Emblems of Status, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., October 29, 1982-April 3, 1983
Elisofon, Eliot. 1958. The Sculpture of Africa. New York: Praeger, p. 209, no. 266.
Staples, Amy J. 2014. "Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon." Tribal Art 19 (2), no. 71, p. 86, no. 6.