Smoking and Drinking

By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mangbetu peoples

Pipe bowl

Wood

H. 14 cm (5 1/2")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.486

Though much more naturalistic in style, this Mangbetu pipe serves essentially the same function as the Cameroonian example—both  are highly personal possessions that announced the high status of their owner. The female figure that ornaments this pipe bowl herself bears symbols of status, most notably the elongation of the head formerly obligatory for members of the Mangbetu ruling class. (The field photo [below] by Lang shows a Mangbetu woman with the elongated head.) While it is clearly Mangbetu in style, the basic form of this pipe—the shape of the bowl and the detachable stem—is Western, adapted along with the tobacco Europeans traded into the area beginning in the 16th century. Prior to the introduction of tobacco, the Mangbetu and their neighbors smoked other types of plants, using pipes made of hollowed banana stems and leaves (Schildkrout 1990: 118). 

Queen Nenzima, Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Herbert Lang.