African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Mangbetu figure
Mangbetu Nebeli figure (N° 18933)
The motifs inscribed on the face and body of this male figure are associated with the traditional paintings of the ethnic group, inspired by the tattoos of the neighboring Asua pygmies, and which varied according to the circumstances. Among the Mangbetu from a very young age, children of the upper classes were also subjected to compression of the skull, kept tight by raffia ties. Later, the hair was "knitted" on wicker strands and a headband was placed around the forehead in order to bring out the hair and form this majestic headdress accentuating the elongation of the skull. The ancients called beli anthropomorphic figures embodying ancestors, stored out of sight, and comparable to those belonging to their secret society nebeli . Oiled black patina. Slight abrasions and missing on one of the legs.
The Mangbetu kingdom in northern Congo produced architectural works that impressed European visitors in the 19th century. Their furniture, weapons, ornaments and statuary were imbued with a rare aesthetic quality. The ethnologist G.A. Schweinfurth in 1870 described their symmetry and refinement, while at the same time testifying to the ritual murders and human sacrifices practiced by "the people of the elongated heads".
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