Mangbetu Royal Art and Herbert Lang, 1902-1906

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

Portrait of Nemali, Okondo's 3rd wife, Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Herbert Lang. Submitted by Enid Schildkrout.

In 1908, the American Museum of Natural History sponsored an expedition to the Belgian Congo. This six year research trip, undertaken by two museum scientists, mammalogist Herbert Lang and ornithologist James Chapin, was inspired by the 1902 description of the okapi, a large mammal previously unknown outside its habitat in the Congo forests. In searching for this elusive relative of the giraffe, Lang and Chapin collected many specimens of animals and plants for the American Museum of Natural History's research collections. Their collections and field notes led to the publication of many papers on the natural history of the region. Lang wrote several articles on the region's art and people, emphasizing the skill of the blacksmiths, potters, and ivory carvers.