Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1874 Mangbetu chief
Subject: chief
Culture: Mangbetu
Setting: Mangbetu kingdom, central Africa 18-19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Bacquart 1998 p140
"When the Mangbetu tribespeople left the Sudan in the middle of the 18th century, they re-located their kingdom in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).  Their social structure is not dissimilar to other Zairean forest-based tribes where the men hunt and fish, while the women are left to cultivate the manioc fields.  Ultimate authority over the 40,000 Mangbetu rests with a king whose sons govern the various provinces, which are divided into districts and villages.  The Mangbetu tribe have been at war with their neighbours, the Zande, since the 18th century."

* Diagram Group 2000 p143
"The Mangbetu kingdom was founded in the first half of the nineteenth century by a leader called Nabiembali, who extended Mangbetu control over non-Mangbetu speakers for the first time.  By the second half of the nineteenth century, the court of the Mangbetu king, Mbunza, was famed as a center for the arts and performance.  Mbunza was probably the most powerful of a number of Mangbetu kingdoms."

* Phillips ed. 1999 p308
"In his description of travels in the 1870s through what is now the Sudan and Zaire, Schweinfurth described the Mangbetu court of King Mbunza as a centre for art, performance and the display of centralized power.  Although the Mangbetu kingdom seems to have been considerably more fragmented than Schweinfurth believed, rulers like Mbunza did have large courts and a retinue of artists who made objects that were used and displayed in the court; these were given as gifts between rulers and, eventually, to visiting Europeans.  By the beginning of Belgian colonial rule, which effectively reached north-eastern Congo in 1891, there were a number of competing chiefs in the Mangbetu-speaking regions, each with a court that echoed the form and style, if not the power, of Mbunza's."


* Withers/Capwell 2010 p78
"The trumbash, of the Mangbetu in the northwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a hooked sickle knife, and easily recognized. The wide blade is formed with a graceful if abrupt right-angle change about halfway along its length.  The edges of the blade trace various paths in relation to the centre line, some examples being more angular while others are more rounded and uniformly curved.
   "Whatever the exact shape, these weapons always possess a singular boldness.  The blades are usually ridged in all sorts of highly individual ways, with some ridges being very sharp and narrow, other being wider and flat-topped.  Some blades are pierced with pairs of large, round holes, and are sometimes forged with short, knob-like projections at the base of both edges.  All of these aspects contribute to a sense of the Mangbetu sickle knife being a piece of abstract art as well as a weapon.  The handle is usually carved out of wood or ivory.  Many have pommels inthe form of a large, cylindrical block, sometimes studded with brass nails.  The heavy pommel of the trumbash even led to a nonsensical myth that they were dropped on the heads of enemies by warriors hiding in trees.  Other grips are carved in the form of a human head and upper body."

* Dallas Museum of Art > African Art
"Sharp-angled sickle-shaped knives with two or three holes and a hilt made of brass, wood, iron, or ivory ... were prestige objects made for Mangbetu kings and important men.  They were held in the hand during visits, palavers, and ceremonials, as much for display as to be readily available, if needed."


* Brooklyn Museum > Africa
"Mangbetu men and women of high status traditionally wore hats made of fiber with a circular base and a rectangular or hexagonal top.  They were decorated with feathers, usually from birds found in the high forest areas, but occasionally from domestic fowl" ....