Mangbetu Royal Art and Herbert Lang, 1902-1906

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

Women brewing beer, Okondo's village, Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1910. Photo by Herbert Lang. Submitted by Enid Schildkrout.

Here, in a 1910 photograph by Herbert Lang, women brew beer from finger millet (eleusine) grown in the savanna grasslands of northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (then the Belgian Congo). Inside this cooking shelter, one can also note the stools, carved house posts, large wooden dish, and slit drum.

The beer is brewed in pots that are also used for storage, cooking, and serving. Women built the pots by winding coils of clay, smoothing the pot, decorating the surface, and hardening the clay over an open fire. Potters applied surface designs with their hands or with small tools, including shell scrapers and wooden roulettes. Incised patterns, depressions worked into the clay surface and basketry overlays prevented pots without handles from slipping.