wood, reptile skin, glass beads, string
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.
To have an elongated head was an ideal of beauty among the Mangbetu people. This skull deformation was created by tying cloth around the head of the baby right from birth, while the cranial bone is still soft. c 1930.
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.
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