Week of Art: African Art #5

Harp | Unknown | African Art | wood, reptile skin, glass beads, string | 19th-20th century | Overall: 18 × 15 × 4 ¾ in. (45.72 × 38.1 × 12.07 cm)

This elegant instrument was used by Mangbetu bards to accompany songs and recitation of epic poetry at the royal court. The woman’s elongated head reflects the Mangbetu practice of binding a child’s head to achieve a more beautiful form.


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 


Illustration of women from different ethnic groups of the Belgian Congo with their traditional hairstyles and adornments

[There are over 250 different ethnic groups in DR Congo but these illustrations only include (in order from left to right) Bambuti, Wasongola, Bangala, Bayaka, Bangelima, Babali, Basengele, Baluba, Bambala, Batetela, Mangbetu, Azande, Wagenia, Sango, Bushongo (Bakuba/Kuba), Arabisée (/Swahili Waswahili/Baswahili), Ngombe and Banyamulenge (Tutsi Congolese)]

From the collection titled “Peuplades du Congo Belge” (People the Belgian Congo”)  part 1 , part 2