Medje Mangbetu statue
tribe representing the Sultani of Medje, and
paramount Chief of the Mangbetu.
Price & Information ref nr:
The lines on the body where not scarification, but where
painted lines used during the ceremonies.
Location: Northern Congo (Zaire)
Language: Mangbetuti (central Sudanic)
Neighboring Peoples: Azande, Mbuti, Momvu
Types of Art: Most Mangbetu art was reserved for ruling class and was secular in
nature. Wooden figures are believed to be ancestral portraits. Harps and
trumpets that were used by court musicians were often adorned with sculpted
human heads. Decorated thrones and knives were also part of the royal
History: Linguistic patterns indicate that the Mangbetu originated from the
northeast, probably from modern day Sudan. As they moved southward they
encountered Bantu migrations moving northward. They finally settled in their
current homeland in the 19th century. This area had been occupied by the Mbuti.
The Mangbetu intermarried with and subsumed many of the Bantu and pygmy
populations they encountered. In the 19th century the Mangbetu Kingdom was
established under Nabiembale and became the dominant political force in the
region until 1880, when Sudanic and Islamic slavers entered the region,
fragmenting the kingdom into sultanates controlled by Moslem leaders. When the
Belgians arrived they expelled the slavers.
Economy: The people living in the Mangbetu region subsist mostly on hoe farming,
fishing, and some hunting. Yams and plantains are the primary crops, and some
cattle farming is done. Unlike other Sudanic peoples, however, among the
Mangbetu only the men are permitted to do the milking. Livestock is seen as a
symbol of wealth and is often exchanged for bride prices. When the king reigned,
he monopolized the copper and ivory trade.
Political Systems: The name Mangbetu refers strictly to the ruling aristocracy,
which ruled the region during the 19th century. The paramount leader inherited
his position and controlled many subkingdoms throughout the region. Often he
appointed his relatives or subjugated leaders to act as his spokesmen in these
villages. Most of the people who live in the area do not originate from Mangbetu
lineages, but have been subjugated by them. Individual villages are stratified
in accordance with the relationships of the people to the founding Mangbetu
Religion: The Mangbetu creator god is known as Kilima or Noro. Ara is a god
associated with water and was known to take the form of an animal that was to be
feared. They also believed that human souls could be reborn as animals. The
Mangbetu royalty demanded that their ancestors be venerated. Bad spirits (Likundu)
demanded offerings by punishing those who ignored them with sickness and
misfortune. These spirits could be directed at an individual by witches. The job
of the diviner among the Mangbetu often involved uncovering and correcting the
work of witches.
found at: http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/people/Mangbetu.html
man with elongated
head Photo © AMNH -Body Art Fact exhibition.