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Death and Display

Kuba funerary art from the Congo River Basin

Raymond Corbey
09 April 2024
Sidestone Press


During funerals of nobles in the Kuba kingdom (Democratic Republic of Congo), visitors used to theatrically offer so-called bongotols to the deceased and the mourning family. These highly appreciated valuables were either positioned under the corpse to support it or displayed on top of it.

In addition to their religious meaning they displayed the status and wealth of both givers and takers. Visitors would receive similar items in return. Afterwards the bongotols were stashed until, on occasion of a next burial, they would continue their cycles of gift and counter gift among the titled Kuba aristocracy.

Death and display brings ethnographic research and archival sources to bear on these intriguing heirlooms. Their rich iconography offers a kaleidoscope of traditional Kuba sociality, cosmology and ritual.

For Leiden University students and staff a free download of the book's pdf is available through the Sidestone Press website.

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