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Kuba Yet Belt



Kuba patterns appear in all kinds of objects and materials, like this mat made of raffia fibers. (The photograph of the Kuba king in Key Idea 1 shows a similar mat in use and an assortment of other patterned objects.)


The “razor’s edge” pattern, seen here decorating a shape known as “crouching frog,” refers to the king’s ability to make decisions.


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The “leopard’s branch” design suggests royal power since the king is often compared to a leopard.


key idea
Patterns have particular names and meanings in Kuba life.

Patterns appear everywhere in Kuba life—carved on wooden boxes and bowls, woven in skirts and rugs, even built into the walls of buildings and etched in the skin.

Intricate variations of patterns have their own names. A name recalling an object or something in nature can add to the design’s symbolism. For example, the “razor’s edge” pattern of triangles on one of this belt’s pendants is said to refer to the king’s ability to make decisions. The “leopard’s branch” design on another pendant suggests royal power, since the king is often compared to a leopard.

Inventing a new pattern is regarded as a sign of intelligence. Sometimes a pattern is known by the name of the king who laid claim to it in hopes of getting credit for its cleverness.



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The ibwoobwo shape of this pendant is a variation of the “lion’s paw” design.
   
January 2006