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Royal Mukyeem Elephant Mask
The Snite Museum Mukyeem contains a number of visual symbols related to its use. The white cowrie shells evoke not only wealth, but the symbolic passing from life to death, or a transition from the living world to that of the venerated ancestors. The interlocking pattern of the glass beadwork is known as imbol, the Kuba symbol of rulership. The elephant motif has a number of related meanings. In a royal burial, the elephant linked the deceased directly to Woot, the mythical founder of Kuba society and its royal lineage. During the interment of a titled man, the elephant tended to signify either or both the political power and wealth of the deceased. Since ivory was the most valuable commodity in the central African interior, the elephant was often used as a motif for a rich man.
from Morton, Dimensions of Power (South Bend, 2018)