Kuba Nyim (ruler) Kot a Mbweeky III photos by  Eliot Elisofon, Daniel Lainé and Angelo Turconi

His name: Kwεt áMbwε'ky René (III): aka Køt áMbwε'ky. Most full names consist of three successive personal names: the king’s own name, the name of his mother and the name of his mother’s mother connected by particles meaning “of.” Only this ruler has a Christian name. The aka names are often used.

The first image depicts Nyim Kot a Mbweeky III wearing abacost, which is the name for the male attire favored by Mobutu and promoted as part of the authenticity campaign, consisting of a short-sleeved suit worn without a tie. The word abacost is derived from the French a bas le costume, or “down with the suit.” Second image depicts depicts wives of Nyim Kot a-Mbweeky III reciting ‘Ncyeem Ingesh’, songs of the nature spirits, praising the monarchy. Third image depicts him wearing a royal dress called ‘Bwaantshy’; royal headdress known as ‘Ntshuum Aniym’. The fourth image depicts him wearing a royal dress called 'labot latwool’ and royal headdress known as 'Shody’; necklace 'Lashyaash’ made of leopard teeth; sword 'Mbombaam’, lance 'Mbwoom Ambady’. Each Kuba king owns two royal dresses called ‘Bwaantshy’, one of which is always buried with him Only the king is permitted to wear them. The sword and the scepter are the marks of supreme authority and the headdresses represents the “house of the king” 


Nyimi Kok Mabiintsh III – King of Kuba (Kasai, D.R. Congo)

The Nyim (king) Mabiintsh III is fifty years old. He acquired the throne at the age of twenty. As a descendant of god the creator, the king is attributed with supernatural powers. Due to his top position he is restricted by several contraints: he does not have the right to sit on the ground, and he cannot cross a cultivated field. Apart from his cook, no one has seen him eat. Moreover he never travels without him, and his personal cooking ustensils.

It took Laine three weeks to photograph the Nyim (king) of the Kuba in his royal apparel, the “bwantshy”. The outfit made out of material stitched with beads and “cauris”, weighs 160 lb. It takes more than two hours to dress the King, and two days of spiritual preparation to be sufficiently purified in order to wear the outfit. The weight and the heat of the bwantshy is such, that it is impossible to wear it more than one hour. The preceeding King had only worn it three time during his entire life.

From 1988 to 1991, French photographer Daniel Lainé photographed 70 African monarchs