Kuba people, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Semi-circular Box with Lid

Kuba people, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Semi-circular Box with Lid, 20th century 

carved wood (13037 a-b)

Gift of the Rogers Family Foundation, 2004 

Ornately carved wooden containers were kept by Kuba men in what is today southcentral Democratic Republic of Congo to store costume accessories and personalcare items. Some boxes were filled with the red powder from camwood which was used to coat and beautify the skin. These and objects for daily use, such as cups and bowls, were decorated with incised or carved patterns of crisscrossing lines and repeating diamonds known as nnaam, a Kuba term referring to the tangled vines and creepers that grow in the forests of the region. These designs also replicate patterns the Kuba use in basketry and their well-known woven raffia textiles. Many Kuba wood objects are further embellished with round-headed brass upholstery tacks and coins obtained through trade.