Woman’s Bustle Ornament, negbe
Mangbetu people
DR Congo, Uele region
First half 20th centuryBanana leaf, raffia and other plant fibers, mud dye; appliqué and embroidery
15” wide x 10” high x 3” deep (36 x 25.5 x 7.5 cm)

Price on request.


Andres Moraga

The negbe, a layered, padded fiber ornament patterned with graphic designs cut from banana leaf, was displayed by high-ranking Mangbetu women, who were renowned for the elegance of their style and body decoration. Worn nestled in the arch of the lower back, the oval shape echoed the striking form of the Mangbetu woman’s distinctive hairstyle, recorded in famous sculptural representations of the Mangbetu queen and early photographic portraits of women of the Mangbetu court.  

The tradition appears to date to the turn of the 20th century.  Incidentally, the shape and the abstract patterns are also reflected in Mangbetu houses and great halls, which were painted with spectacular large-scale black and white geometric designs. Both art forms were well documented by the 1920s, and reveal a striking relationship with Art Deco design – raising a question about the source and direction of artistic influence.

Due to their fragility, fewer older pieces in this technique have survived. But this negbe is in excellent condition, with a crisp, dramatic and complex pattern.  It can be displayed on a stand or on the wall.

From a Belgian colonial family collection.

Andres Moraga :: Negbe, Mangbetu People, D. R. Congo
Andres Moraga :: Negbe, Mangbetu People, D. R. Congo