The Kuba kingdom of modern Democratic Republic of Congo was one of 22 literate societies that inhabited Africa during the last 5000 years.
The Kuba kingdom existed from 1625 to 1884. The Kingdom of Kuba has evidence of human habitation before 1000 AD, including Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts (source: “Art of the Lega,” by Elisabeth Lynn Cameron). The kingdom’s society included fortifications, a palace for the monarch, temples, and markets (source: “The Art of the Kuba Kingdom,” by F. Warnier). The heads of state were elected, and the society had various departments and ministries (source: “Art of the Lega”). The kingdom’s founding ancestor, Woot, granted privileges to his descendants (source: “African Sculpture,” by William Fagg). The society spoke several languages, including Bantu, with roots in the Niger-Congo languages (source: “Bantu Languages,” by Derek Nurse). The kingdom was preceded by various chiefdoms and tribes (source: “Kingdoms of the Savanna,” by David Conrad). The society had a tradition of spreading outside its polity as slaves or immigrants (source: “The Kuba Kingdom,” by Jan Vansina). The kingdom had festivals, including the Nsanga ritual, celebrating royal ancestors (source: “Art of the Kuba Kingdom”). The society had courts and allowed multiple faiths (source: “The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila,” by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja). Written records, such as the Kuba Textile Panel and Kuba Hat, showed evidence of a writing system using logograms and ideograms (source: “Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach,” by Henry Rogers). The Kuba Textile Panel, a decorated cloth made by the Kuba people of the Congo, used logograms and ideograms that could be decoded by literate members of society (source: “The Art of the Kuba Kingdom” by F. Warnier). The textile panel was used for various purposes, including religious and political ceremonies, as well as for social and economic exchanges (source: “The Kuba Kingdom” by Jan Vansina). The intricate patterns on the cloth also conveyed social and political messages, such as the status of the person wearing it or the rank of the occasion (source: “African Art and Agency in the Workshop” by Sidney Kasfir).
The five most important features of a fully developed writing system are:
1. Phonetic sound-symbolism – a direct correspondence between the sound and symbol of a language
2. Grammatical markers – symbols that indicate grammatical function or meaning
3. Logographic/ideographic writing – symbols representing ideas or concepts rather than sounds
4. Flexibility – ability to adapt to new words, sounds, and concepts
5. Standardization – establishment of conventions to ensure uniformity and consistency in written language.
The Kuba people of the Congo used a writing system that incorporated both logograms and ideograms (source: “The Art of the Kuba Kingdom” by F. Warnier). However, it did not include phonetic sound-symbolism, grammatical markers, flexibility, or standardization, which are considered important features of a fully developed writing system.
Tax revenues came from trade and agriculture, and the society was known for its art, music, and textile production (source: “The Art of the Kuba Kingdom”).