The art of the northern savanna is associated with the sumptuous royal courts of the Mangbetu peoples. At its height during the second half of the nineteenth century, Mangbetu aristocrats surrounded themselves with a wide variety of finely crafted boxes, jars, stools, pipes, musical instruments, weapons, basketry implements and ornaments. Back aprons (negbe, pl. egbe) such as this one were particularly popular among upper-class Mangbetu women at the turn of the twentieth century.
This distinctive kidney-shaped ornament pad was built up of intricately layered banana leaves. Worn on special occasions, egbe were affixed to the lower back by a girdle which would maintain a fiber extension into the hollow near the base of the spine.
What an early witness to these ornaments described as "a little apron of doubtful effect" was in fact not so much meant to cover the women's buttocks but rather to echo elegantly the shape of the distinctive Mangbetu halo-shaped hairdo, an elaborate conical construction that expended at the back of the head.
Region: Northern DRC
Ethnic group: Mangbetu
Material: fibre ,leaves.
Provenance: belgian collection
Age estimate: circa 1950
Condition: Good, traces of wear due to age and use.
Not Mounted ,a custom made base can be ordered on request.