Kuba Kingdom or Bakuba/ Bushoong Kingdom was a federation of smaller polities and ethnicities. It bordered the Kasai, Lulua, and Sankuru rivers in the region of West Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo. The kingdom is estimated to have had a population of 250,000. Kuba is the name given to the Bushoong people by the Luba, meaning "lightning", for their throwing knife.
The first nyim and founder of the Kuba Kingdom was Shyaam a-Mbul a Ngoong. Shyaam was the adopted son of a local queen. Shyaam seems to have traveled the surrounding areas and acquired knowledge of new technologies from the Kongo Kingdom, Pende, and other peoples, in the west. He acquired technologies such as iron production and new world plants such as maize and cassava.
By the 17th century, Shyaam unified the Kuba people: the Ngende, Bulang, Pyang, Pyang Ibaam, Kayuweng, Kaam, Bieng, Kel, Ngongo, Ngombe, Maluk, Mbengi, Shoowa (Shobwa), Iding, Kete, Coofa and Cwa. Other groups who were not part of the empire, but highly influence by the Kuba were Ndengese, Binji, Wongo, Mbuun, and Leele.
Kuba society is matrilineal. The Queen Mother empowers the nyim (nyimi) or king. His power is absolute. The nyim heads the Kuba Kingdom. The nyim is considered divine. He is lawmaker, warrior, and spirit medium. The government was organized around a merit system that dispensed title and authority among the aristocracy. This solidified loyalty to the kingdom.
Individual polities had autonomy within the empire but were required to pay tribute to the Bushoong royal court.
The Kuba traded extensively with other peoples and used iron, tukula, and raffia cloth as currency. Iron was shaped into bars and further broken down for other goods. Tukula a powder was valued like gold. It was made from the camwood tree and took a lot of effort to produce a significant quantity. Raffia cloth, a major Kuba commodity, was used as exchange. The Kuba imported beads, brass tacks, and cowry shells, to be used for currency.
Being in a river wetted forest zone, the Kuba fished, hunted, and farm. They grew new world crops such as corn and cassava. With abundant produce, the Kuba experience population expansion.
Bumba created the world and deemed the Bushoong the royal class. Woot is the first ancestor and founder of the Bushoong. Dogs were the messengers of the gods.
Kuba art is world famous. The Kuba worked in textile, wood, and metal. They created the world famous raffia textile, kasai velvet and pile cloth. Wood carved cups and other containers were crafted, even wood sword and lance. Mastering metal smelting allowed the Kingdom to produce weapons such axes, knives, and daggers. Razors, scarification knives, and other utensils were other items produced by her locksmith.
They decorated their medium with specific motif. Motif designated rank, status, events, and functions. Kuba symbols have meaning which most scholars, have not deciphered.
Kuba society has a plethora of Mask, representing spirits. Mask can represent animals like elephant spirits, the original ancestor spirit Woot, the King, and pygmies. Initially, it is thought the Kuba never had masks but via influence through neighboring people acquired the practice of keeping mask.
Coles, Janet and Bigham, Elizabeth. African Beads:A Book and Craft Kit. Simon and Schuster 30-33.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Kingdom of the Savannah: The Kuba Kingdom.<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kuba/hd_kuba.htm>, retrieved 26 Feb 2012.
Congo Gallery<www.congogallery.be>. The Bakuba Empire.<http://www.congogallery.be/pdf/kuba.pdf>26-Feb-2012.