Art of the Kuba

January 20 - February 17, 2009
The Art of the Kuba exhibition at Governors State University’s Visual Arts Gallery will bring the intricate artwork of the Kuba to the South Suburbs. The Kuba Kingdom is currently part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo although it remains the sole surviving traditional court of the many that once flourished in equatorial Africa. The artwork on display is a combination of rich textiles, intricate beadwork, overpowering masks and photographs.

The exhibition is enhanced by a Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences featuring Prince Ngoloshang Mbecky of the Kuba Royal Family. The prince will present video recordings of Kuba art and ritual in the current social and political setting on February 6 at 6:00 p.m. in Sherman Music Recital Hall. A reception will follow immediately after the presentation. The exhibit will also be open for viewing that evening until 9 p.m.

The Distinguished Lecture, reception, and art exhibit are free and open to the public. The Visual Arts Gallery is located in the E-Wing at Governors State University, 1 University Parkway, University Park, Illinois. The Art of the Kuba Exhibition is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. January 20 through February 17. For more information, call (708) 534-4021.

Distinguished Lecture Series
Prince Ngoloshang Mbeky of the Kuba
(currently part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
February 6, 6:00 p.m. Sherman Recital Hall

Art of the Kuba Exhibit
Visual Arts Gallery
Reception February 6, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

This event is part of a yearlong celebration of Governors State University’s 40th anniversary. GSU was founded in 1969 and continues to be a leader in providing educational opportunity and community service. For more information about GSU’s 40th Anniversary, visit

The Kuba People

The Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly, Zaire and the Belgian Congo, live in the fertile lands of equatorial Africa between the Kasai and Sankuru Rivers. They compose a politically and socially complex multi-ethnic Kingdom consisting of 18 distinct sub-groups, each having a history and identity of its own. These groups have been an organized Kingdom since the 17th century but have lived in south central Congo much longer. Their unity is explained by participation in a common culture and by the Bushong's domination of the whole group. The Bushong group has the largest population of the 18. Artistically, the Kuba surround themselves with a sophisticated vocabulary of elaborate decorative patterns which are found in architecture, basketry, carved objects, female body scarification and textiles. Finally, in its political system, pomp of public receptions, and sophistication of its legal procedure, the Kuba Kingdom has remained the lone witness to the stately courts that had once flourished in equatorial Africa.

The Kuba Kingdom has been known to the western world only since the 1880s with the expeditions of Antonio da Silva Porto who led a Luso-African caravan. Subsequent expeditions were led by Paul Pogge and Hermann von Wissmann and finally Ludwig Wolf, who initiated the treaty whereby sovereignty was relinquished to the Congo Independent State in 1899. William Sheppard penetrated the kingdom to its capital, collected and reported on the extensive artistic production in 1892 and was followed by the ethnographic studies of Leo Frobenius in 1905 and Emil Torday in 1908. Under Belgian administration starting in 1910, much more data became available.

Kuba oral narratives are replete with reference to cosmology, creation of the world and man, and genealogies of kings, chiefs, and titled officials. The ncyeem ingesh or “songs of the nature spirits,” praise the monarchy with one song composed to glorify each king. From sources such as this, historians such as E. Torday and Jan Vansina have developed dynastic lists as an outline to a Kuba history. The following is a sample of Kuba time-depth and worldview.

List of Kuba Rulers
Matoon Dynasty
Shyaam aMbul aNgoong (c. 1630)
Mboon aLeeng (c. 1640)
MboMboosh (c. 1650)

Classical Period
Mbakam Mbomancyeel (ruling in 1680) --solar eclipse of 1680Kot aMbweeky ikoongl (c. 1695)
Mishe miSyaang maMbul (c. 1710)
Kot aNce (c. 1740)
MishaaPelyeeng aNce (c. 1760)
Mbo Peleeng aNce with Mbulape (a woman) regent (c. 1765)
Kot aMbul (c. 1785)
Miko miMbul (c. 1800)
Mbop Mabiinc maMbul (ruled c. 1835 to 1885-6)

Colonial Period to Present
Miko Mabiinc maMbul (ruled 1885-86 to before 1892)
Kot aMbweeky II (ruled from before 1892 to 1896)
Mishaape (ruled 1896-1900)Mbop Kyeen (ruled c. three months, 1900)
Miko miKyeen (ruled 1901-1902)
Kot aPe (ruled 1902-1916)Mbop aMbweeky (ruled 1919-1939)
Mbop Mabiinc maMbeky (ruled 1939-1969)
Kot aMbweeky III (ruled 1969 - )

Dynastic Legend of Kuba Origins:
A king’s daughter had two sons, Woot and Nyimi Longa, and two daughters. One day Woot became drunk on palm wine and lay naked; his sons laughed at him, but his daughter covered him up, and after that he decreed that only his daughter would inherit from him.

Woot contracted leprosy and retired from the village to the forest. His sister Mweel accompanied him and cared for him in his illness; they later became intimate and had a number of children. While living in the forest with Mweel, Woot discovered the items which were to become the emblems of kingship among the Kuba—eagle feathers worn by the king and regional chiefs, kolin powder for his enthronement, and the yiing basket covered with cowrie shells upon which he must sit that proves his right of succession. Other items reserved for the king alone are the mboom adady scepter, the mbombaam sword, the bwaanc costume, the mboong pwoonc bow, the cyeem, the mbeynyim mask and anklets of brass worn on his legs. When he recovered from his illness, he returned to the village with Mweel, their children, and the emblems. After his return, the incest was revealed by a Pygmy who had observed the couple in the forest, and the people of the village were outraged. The son of Mweel and Woot was forced to emigrate; he founded the neighboring Lele people. Woot and Mweel also departed the village; she went downstream, and he went upstream.

Before he left, however, Woot decided to hand over the emblems of power which he had discovered. He told his son to come to him at dawn, as Woot was leaving the village, and to ask for the ‘chicken-basket’. But a Pygmy overheard the conversation and told Woot’s brother Nyimi Longa what he should do. In the dim light of the early morning, Nyimi Longa accosted Woot and asked him for the ‘chicken-basket’, and so he, instead of Woot’s son, received the emblems of kingship. Discovering the deception, Woot was furious and caused a fire which destroyed the village; his wife, Ipopa, cursed the crops and the animals so that the millet rotted on the stalk and the animals died. Then Woot and Ipopa vanished up the river.

Nyimi Longa rebuilt the village and sent messengers to Woot, and eventually they acquired new domestic animals and the fertility of the crops was restored. It is also said that on his departure Woot caused night to fall over the village, and day returned only after his brother had sent messengers to plead for the people.

Still later, there was a dispute among the clans over the kingship. The Byeeng and the Bushong clans were rivals and they agreed to a public test of their claims: each pretender would throw a peg-like anvil into the water, and whichever anvil floated would indicate the legitimate claimant. The leader of the Byeeng clan then had his smiths make an anvil of light wood, over which they laid a thin layer of metal. But his sister was married to the leader of the Bushong, and she learned of this artifice; she switched anvils and gave her husband the wooden anvil, which naturally floated on the water when he threw it in. It was a trick but after that, marvelous signs showed that God had approved Bushong leadership. The trees along the river shook at his command, and on his order the lake took on different colors, and finally, he crossed the lake on the back of an immense crocodile and received there the sacred powders, red, white and yellow. Therefore, the Bushong clan took the kingship. Their leader is known as Shyaam aMbul aNgoong, the first great king of the Kuba and the originator of many of their distinctive practices. He gave his people crops and foodstuffs, modes of dress, behavior and customs.

The Masks:
The bell-shaped Kuba masks are profusely adorned with skins, beads and cowries and are closer to the techniques of weaving and embroider than carved sculpture. Among the Bushong, three basic types of masks are used for general festivities, initiation rites and burial ceremonies. One type of mask, known as mwaash a mbooy, is directly linked with royal power representing the culture-hero, Woot, and is reserved exclusively for certain male members of the royal family. Its female counterpart is the ngaady mwaash, representing Woot's wife-sister. The third Bushong type, but carved of wood, is known as Mboom. Mboom characterizes opposition to the king’s authority in the dance—a contrast between chiefs of the left and chiefs of the right--and represents someone not of royal birth and some think even the Pygmy. Their performance at the capital is viewed on one level as a portrayal of the mythic origin of the Kuba peoples. Not only is there dominance/powerlessness and male/female polarities in the triad of masks but the two male masks struggle over the affections of the female ngaady that together signify the break between adolescence and adulthood, the inevitable awakening of manhood, and social interplay. Less well known are other wooden masking forms such as Nuph with its clusters of cowries at the temples and coiffure of red and white feathers, Mulwalwa with its chameleon eyes and palm wine pot above the head, Mukenga with its elephant trunk and funerary dress of a titleholder and many others that identify more with Kuba subgroups rather than the Bushong.

Tim Ryan - Adventures in DisOrder

The Governors State University Visual Arts Gallery presents Adventures in DisOrder, a show of recent work by Tim Ryan, from December 5 through 15, 2008.

Tim Ryan is an artist working in two-dimensional and three-dimensional media. Adventures in DisOrder is an exploration of the graffiti culture using the artist’s personal sense of aesthetic order.

Jessica Van Swol - Ears: The New Fingerprint

The Governors State University Visual Arts Gallery is pleased to present “Ears: The New Fingerprint,” a show of recent work by ceramic sculptor and installation artist Jessica Van Swol. Her “Ears: The New Fingerprints” installation brings into focus the unique details of ears that show individuality in even such a small part of the human body.
November 21 – December 3, 2008. Reception: Sunday, November 23rd, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Blurring the line between artistic inspiration and scientific investigation, Jessica Van Swol uses the form of the human ear as a metaphor for individuality and identity in the social sphere. Despite being composed of the same 13 elements, when displayed in comparison with one another, subtle distinctions begin to emerge revealing the peaks, valleys, and shadows of the ear unique to the individual.

Jessica Van Swol grew up in the south Chicago suburb, Frankfort Square, where she is completing a Masters program for sculpture at Governor’s State University, University Park, IL.


Our annual Artsfest is an all-day celebration of the arts here at GSU. Presented by the College of Arts and Sciences & Student Involvement and Engagement, Artsfest is an opportunity for family members, prospective students, and members of the surrounding communities to see what out art program is all about. Events planned for this year include: Workshops in ceramics, digital imaging, enhancing creativity, film-making, mosaic-making, painting, photography, poetry, and printmaking; Collaborative art happenings; Art history and creativity round table discussions; Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park mini-tours; Alive musical performance; A student art exhibition and reception; and much more. To find out more about what's happening, check out

Lenore Lopez - Migration and Immigration

The artwork of Lenore Lopez of Blue Island, will be presented at the Visual Arts Gallery from October 23 – November 5, 2008.

Migration and Immigration explores the complex issue of immigration and the subsequent problems related to border crossing through a combination of media, from traditional still life to installation pieces. “The message of my work is to create awareness of the complexity, tragedy, and humanity involved in the immigration of both the documented and the undocumented immigrants,” says Lopez.

A public reception with the artist in attendance will take place on October 23 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Alonzo Balderas - Waiting for a Renaissance

Waiting for a Renaissance: The Southeast Side, an art exhibition by Alonso Balderas, will be on display from October 13 to 22, in the Visual Arts Gallery. A reception celebrating Balderas work will be held on October 17, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the gallery.

The photomontages and collages on exhibit consist of vintage black and white and contemporary color photographs pieced together to create a provoking, political commentary on Chicago’s southeast side.

Balderas is a native the southeast side who works to bring change to his former community. He is currently in the process of completing his Master’s of Fine Arts degree at GSU. Balderas teaches English and theater arts at J. Sterling Morton High School in Berwyn.

Regional Art Faculty Exhibition

A group exhibition consisting of the works of Illinois college and university faculty will be open to the public September 8 through October 3, 2008 in the Visual Arts Gallery.

Among many others, exhibiting artists include, Javier Chavira, Carrie Ohm, Cole Robertson, Jean Janssen, Harley McDaniel, Heather Page, Michael Hart, Lou Sheilds, Beth Parin, Paul Rinaldi, Sergio Gomez, William Greiner, Gary Thomas, and Joseph Rejholec.

Visiting Artist: Harley McDaniel - String Theory

July 14 through July 31, 2008.

McDaniel brings an aesthetic awareness to common, overlooked elements of daily life. His String Theory transforms bailing twine from mundane, utilitarian material into an evocative, tactile art experience. The simple, meditative, and playful installation is informed by a Zen Buddhist concern for mindfulness. McDaniel hopes to draw attention to the richness of daily life and the unexpected beauty of the material world.

Harley McDaniel completed his BFA from Bowling Green State University and his MFA from Miami University in Oxford, OH. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Kankakee Community College in Kankakee, IL.

Donna Franks-Tapley

Segments of Life, an exhibition of the multi-plane, fragmented self portraits of Donna Franks Tapley will be on display in the Visual Arts Gallery from June 24 - July 9, 2008.

Jerry Slowik - The UnHuman Element

The UnHuman Element, the work of Jerry Slowik of Bourbonnais, will be on display at the Visual Arts Gallery at Governors State University from June 4 to June 18, 2008. An opening reception will take place on June 4 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Slowik’s work combines the past with the present by using old toy robots and placing them in settings that are surreal, yet recognizable. Taking the traditional medium of photography and combining it with digital manipulation further combines the past and present.

“Every day, we remember the past, live and experience the present, and wonder what the future will hold,” says Slowik. “This exhibit embraces the future with a sense of trepidation for what is to come.”

Visiting Artists: Lee Bauchsbaum & Daniel Overturf - Working in the Seams

Working In the Seams: An Initial Photographic View into the African-American Coal Culture of Southern Illinois, an exhibition comprised of original photographs and text that discusses the history of Black coal miners in Southern Illinois will be on exhibit in the Visual Arts Gallery April 11-May 9, 2008 with a public reception on Wednesday, April 16, from 6-8 p.m.

Working in several historic African-American coal mining neighborhoods, communities, and towns, the photographers have been attempting to meet with as many contributors to this mining culture as possible. Through these portraits the viewers are able to see into the lives of dozens of individuals across southern Illinois who either worked in the coal industry, or whose brothers, husbands, fathers, or uncles did. Most often, the subjects are part of a long lineage of miners.

"Through these portraits, viewers will be able to see the faces and glimpse into the lives of dozens of African-Americans across Southern Illinois who either worked in the coal industry, or whose brothers, husbands, fathers or uncles did. Their faces provide a graphic link across what has been a largely uncharted history."

The project was funded by a major grant from the Illinois Humanities Council and by the Coal Research Center at Southern Illinois University

9 Variations Graduate Exhibition

The Visual Arts Gallery at Governors State University will present 9 Variations, a group exhibit of artwork by GSU graduate students in art, from April 4 through April 18. An opening evening reception will be held on April 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

The exhibit includes a variety of mediums, including digital photography, painting, and sculpture that give viewers a glimpse into real and abstract worlds. Contributing artists include Alonso Balderas, Joe Baltz, Wes Gonzalez, Janice Pratt, Jody Reno, Tim Ryan, Jessica Van Swol, Ben Ward, and Patricia Watkins.

Jennifer Jackson - At the Seam

April 2-9, 2008. Public Reception: Friday, April 4, 6-8 p.m.

Utilizing a "toy" camera, alternative photographic processes, and porcelain sculpture, At the Seam investigates iconic funerary art in conjunction with the concepts of time, visual landscape, recognition, and transition. The series taps into the symbol-system embedded within Victorian funerary artifacts. The artifacts are modes of eternal recognition left behind to exemplify lifetime accomplishments, spiritual direction, or to provide solace for the remaining family.

Jennifer Jackson was born and raised in the Chicago area and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts, with distinction, in Art Education and Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2003. In 2008, she completed her Masters in Photography at Governors State University, summa cum laude. She is an artist/educator who began her photographic endeavors at a very young age, photographing "the stuff of life" and travels with her family.

2008 GSU Student Art Exhibtion

New work from GSU's art students will be on exhibit in the Visual Arts Gallery of Governor's State University from March 18th through the 31st. An open reception will take place on Wednesday, March 26th.

The exhibition is open to all students who have been enrolled in art classes at GSU in the last year. The Juror, DeKalb artist Kimberly Mullarkey, professor of drawing at the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, will select 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards, as well as honorable mention.

2008 Illinois Community College Juried Art

The College of Arts and Sciences will host the 2008 Illinois Community College Juried Art Exhibition at Governors State University Visual Arts Gallery on March 14, 1-3 pm.

Public Reception: Friday, March 14, 1-3 pm
Presentation of awards 2 pm
Juror: Harry Sudman

Visiting Artist Lecure - Lenore Thomas

In honor of Women's History Month, the College of Arts and Sciences is sponsoring a series of three lectures/workshops by noted artist Lenore Thomas. Each workshop will highlight a different aspect of art, the art world, and the business of art.

Lenore Thomas earned her BA in fine arts and religious studies from Lawrence University and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a former assistant to the master printers at Tandem Press and currently a member of No Fun artist collaborative and co-director of Red Rocket Gallery. Her recent work is mixed media which includes a variety of digital and traditional print processes as well as painting and drawing. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally. She is represented by M% in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in New York City.

Artist Lecture: I Was Born a Cartoon
Wednesday, March 5, 7-8 pm
Sherman Recital Hall

Digital & Encaustic Monotypes
Thursday, March 6, 6-7:30 pm
Printmaking Studio, E1527

Business Talk:
Getting into Galleries
Friday, March 7, 7-8 pm
Sherman Recital Hall

Faye's Light Benefit

The Governors State University student organization, Art Forum, are hosting a fine art silent auction to benefit Faye’s Light, on February 8, from 6 to 9 p.m., in the GSU Visual Arts Gallery.

Faye’s Light is a non-profit organization that provides free spa services and other holistic therapies to people in treatment for cancer. These services include message, Reiki, facials, manicures, pedicures, therapeutic art, aromatherapy, guided meditation, and other energy work.

The fund raising event includes a gala reception, refreshments, a live jazz band, and extraordinary art. There is a suggested donation at the door of $20, ($15 for students with ID). All artwork has been donated and the proceeds benefit Faye’s Light. The silent auction will include paintings, photographic works, sculpture, textiles, and ceramics.

Mexicans in Chicago: Photographic Footprints

Mexicans in Chicago: Photographic Footprints will be on exhibit: January 15 - February 6, 2008
Open Reception: January 30, 2008

Consisting of a series of black and white digital panels selected from the 2001 publication, "Images of America, Mexican Chicago, "by Rita Arias Jirasek and Carlos Tortolero, this unique exhibition aims to tell the stories of Mexican Chicago through a montage of old photographs and documents collected throughout the Mexican Community in the Chicago metropolitan area. The main themes are: the Road to Chicago, Community Life, Spiritual Life, Work, Political Activism, Social Activism, and Arts & Culture.

Our appreciation to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, the largest Latino cultural institution in the country, for loaning us this exhibit.