Mangbetu Royal Art and Herbert Lang, 1902-1906

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

Chief Danga, Mangbetu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Herbert Lang. Submitted by Enid Schildkrout.

Ivory horns and hat pins were a coveted form of wealth, although before the Arab and European ivory trade began in the 1860's, Africans did not seem to kill elephants solely to obtain ivory. The use of ivory for ornaments became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century once the trade in tusks subsided. An entire elephant tusk was required to carve a long ivory horn. Herbert Lang, who admired African ivory carving, but who also criticized killing elephants solely for ivory, wrote, "All Mangbetu men of importance covet pins, most of which . . . terminate in a single concave disk, usually turned toward the front when worn, and supposed to represent the radiance of the sun.'' (Herbert Lang, Fieldnotes, Archives of the Anthropology Department, American Museum of Natural History).