Rare group of three Mangbetu type sculpted figures depicting subjects back to back, naked, tattooed and wearing their hair according to traditional usage. The high headdress enhanced the elongation of the skull, typical of the group, which a compression of the head from an early age gradually deformed.
The ancients call beli the anthropomorphic figures embodying ancestors, stored out of sight, and comparable to those belonging to their secret society nebeli.
The Mangebetu 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 its 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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