Amadi woman with traditional hair called  Edamburu, Okondo’s Village, Belgian Congo by Lang-Chapin [ Before she cut off her hair]. This hairstyle is also a traditional Mangbetu hairstyle.  

Tribes like the Amadi…though not completely assimilated (during the Belgian Congo) have nevertheless been greatly influenced, politically and culturally by the Azande. [Political Awakening in the Belgian Congo By René Lemarchand] and the Azande and Mangbetu have a lot of cultural similarities. 

She cut her hair off and sold it to the Europeans

Sticks used for arranging the braided string over the hair. Not all women use it. I took a photograph of NENSIMA with the sticks in use. After they arrive with the string above the forehead they push these sticks underneath the partly finished portion and then they continue the process with much less trouble. There is another string used behind; the braided string does not lay about the hair in circles, but when reaching the back the braided string is folded and carried forward. The string behind is drawn between the fold, there is a slight distance left behind between the braided string that allows at the withdrawal of the stick to tie up the braided string by simply pulling it downward. See photograph. Nearly every day the hair is newly arranged by simply laying with a needle one round near the other. Indeed in a well made hairdress not a single hair is sticking out between the different braided strings. The women are naturally very proud of their hairdress and it is only with great difficulties that permission is obtained to cut the hair off [Basically this hair style involves weaving hair]

The hairstyle from Mangbetu women

Here are depictions of women with the hairstyle

Malvina Hoffman’s statue


Mbombio, Chief Mogendo’s principal wife & Hairdressing among Mangbetu people
Medje village, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Photo: Eliot Elisofon, 1970

The photograph depicts Mbombio, Chief Mogendo’s principal wife. “The funnel-shaped coiffure which ended in an outward halo, originally symbolic of high social status, was considered exceptionally attractive, and took a lot of time to create. Of the ornaments that embellished the hairstyles of the Mangbetu, and related ethnic groups, combs were reserved for women.” [Sieber R., Herreman F., 2000: Hair in African Art and Culture, Prestel]



The tribe of Mangbetu people (central Africa/Congo) used to practice a tradition named “Limpodo’”. At birth the heads of babies were tightly wrapped with cloth in order to give their heads the elongated look. The practice began dying out in the 1950s with the arrival of more Europeans and westernization.

The skull elongation was a status symbol among the Mangbetu ruling classes at the beginning of the century and later evolved into a common ideal of beauty among the peoples of the northeastern Congo.

Source: here


Irma Stern

Country: Republic of South Africa

Style: Portraiture/ Impressionism

Medium: Oil, Gouache, Watercolour

Fun Fact: her work was unappreciated at first in South Africa where critics derided her early exhibitionsin the 1920s with reviews titled “Art of Miss Irma Stern - Ugliness as a cult”.  On her return to South Africa, equipped with influences from German expressionism she had her first exhibition but that was dismissed as “immoral” and became subject to police investigation.

Quote: It was a shock to me to see how the natural picturesqueness of the native in his kraal had almost disappeared … Today he has submitted to civilization … he wears Everyman’s clothes and boots. He looks odd and drab in this garb … to those of us who saw the beauty of the native in his natural state the change is sad.


1. Portrait of a Young Girl

2. Bahora Girl

3. Woman Sewing Karos

4. Portrait of a Young Malay Girl

5.  Mangbetu woman

6. Portrait of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher

7. African Woman

8. Zanzibar

9. Malay GIrl

10. Woman with a Jug