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Belt ornament  (mbweem'apash)
Date: Mid-20th century
Medium: Glass beads, cowrie shells, raffia cloth, cotton cloth
Dimensions: H x W x D: 57.8 x 17.3 x 2.0 cm (22 3/4 x 6 13/16 x 13/16 in.)
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Geography: Eastern Kasai Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Object Number: 98-18-1
Search Terms:
Male use
Exhibited: African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection

The Kuba are recognized for the variety of elaborate beaded and shell decoration worn during ceremonial occasions. This includes bandoliers, necklaces, headbands, belts and belt ornaments that display a number of ingenious fabrication techniques. This large and finely decorated belt ornament was created to be worn suspended over the front of a man's voluminous raffia skirt. Like belt ornaments made of spotted hide, either leopard or civet cat, the beaded version was also meant to be visually impressive. On this example, multicolored glass beads and cowrie shells form small sections of geometric patterns. The size of the beads and the careful selection of the shells to match in both size and color are the hallmarks of a Kuba master craftsman.

Elongated pendant ending in a point with two rectangular tabs on the side. The surface is covered with geometric patterns in glass beads and cowrie shells over blue cotton cloth.

Pierre Loos, Belgium, ca.1978 to 1986-1987

Jacques Hautelet, 1986-1987 to 1998

African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013-ongoing (installed April 6, 2016)

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