Mangbetu Royal Art and Herbert Lang, 1902-1906

by Enid Schildkrout
Museum for African Art (formerly American Museum of Natural History)

Doorway of the Great Hall. Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo H. Lang. Submitted by Enid Schildkrout.

The Great Meeting Hall, a detail of which is shown here, was completed in 1913. It was built of bamboo reeds, wooden posts, fiber cords and rattan strips. Although it had no windows, the fiber construction allowed light and air to pass through. The room was used for dances, court cases, meetings and ceremonies. The attendant standing in front of the doorway is wearing a garment made from bark cloth, a soft fabric made by pounding the bark of a Ficus tree with a mallet made of ivory. The cloth was then died a rich dark brown by being immersed in a particular type of mud.