Mangbetu Royal Art and Herbert Lang, 1902-1906

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

Kongoli's Village, Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Herbert Lang. Submitted by Enid Schildkrout.

A Mangbetu royal village, photographed in 1913, shows the orderly arrangement of houses that were part of the royal residence. Each large room was a shelter for a particular woman and her children. The male head of the family would have a separate meeting room for entertaining visitors. In the 19th century the finest houses were constructed of reeds and they were quite strong as well as very attractive in their fiber patterning. This type of construction was replaced in the early part of the 20th century by mud-walled houses, constructed by placing mud bricks over a wooden frame. Conical roofs were made of grass woven into a wooden and fiber frame.