African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Mangbetu statue

Figure of Mangbetu Nebeli ancestor (N° 21541)

The traditional paintings of the Mangbetu ethnic group, inspired by the tattoos of the neighboring Asua pygmies, and evolving according to the circumstances, are represented on this statue thanks to linear patterns.
Among the Mangbetu from an early age, children of the upper classes also suffered compression of the skull, held tight by raffia ties. Later, the hair was "knitted" on wicker strands and a headband encircled the forehead in order to bring out the hair and constitute this majestic headdress accentuating the elongation of the skull. The ancients called beli the anthropomorphic figures embodying ancestors, stored out of sight, and comparable to those belonging to their secret society nebeli .

Reddish brown patina, native restorations on the arms.
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 killings and human sacrifices practiced by "the people of the reclining heads".  

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Originex-collection luxembourgeoise
Countryrdc ex zaire
Height cm57
Width13 cm
Weight2.90 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°

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