Kongo Power and Majesty Alisa LaGamma

Publication date:
11 Sep 2015
Metropolitan Museum of Art
308 pages: 279 x 229mm
261 color illus.
Sales territories:


A compelling examination of one of the most artistically rich and creative African kingdoms

Artists from the kingdom of Kongo—a vast swath of Central Africa that today encompasses the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola—were responsible for outstanding creative achievements. With the influx of Portuguese, Dutch, and Italian merchants, missionaries, and explorers, Kongo developed a unique artistic tradition that blended European iconography with powerful indigenous art forms. An initially positive engagement with Europe in the 15th century turned turbulent in the wake of later displacement, civil war, and the slave trade—and many of the artworks created in Kongo reflect the changing times.
This comprehensive study is the first major catalogue to explore Kongo’s history, art forms, and cultural identity before, during, and after contact with Europe. Objects range from 15th-century “mother-and-child” figures, which reflect a time when Europeans and their Christian motifs were viewed favorably, to fearsome mangaaka, power figures that conveyed strength in the midst of the kingdom’s dissolution. Lavishly illustrated with new photography and multiple views of three-dimensional works, this book presents the fascinatingly complex artistic legacy of one of Africa’s most storied kingdoms. 

Alisa LaGamma is Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


‘A veritable tour de force, this landmark publication mobilises a wealth of information with as much zest as depth.’ — Afonso Dias Ramos, Oxford Art Journal

‘Every school, college and university, should have a copy of this in their library.’ — Natty Mark Samuels, Izibongo

Won honorable mention for the 2016 PROSE Awards in the Art Exhibitions category. Metropolitian Museum of Art. PROSE Awards recognize the very best in Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP)

"Kongo: Power and Majesty is one of two notable and highly readable books on African art this season . . . compelling."—Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith, New York Times, Holiday Gift Guide 2015 section