This unique vessel is hand molded from terra-cotta by the Mangbetu, an agrarian people living in northeastern Republic of Congo. It is a female figurine marked by a smiling countenance, protruding nose, closed eyes, wide, beveled headdress, and two, short, thin arms wrapped around the fat, playful belly. The Mangbetu people are physically distinguishable for their elongated skulls – achieved through a process known as “Lipombo” (cloth-wrapping the baby’s head from birth until age two), and, by cultural tradition, utilized to denote future power and higher intelligence for the baby. These exceptional objects are always designed and constructed by Mangbetu women. This terra-cotta, anthropomorphic vessel is employed for consumption of local wine and medications during various cultural enactments.
REFERENCES: Schildkrout, E. 1999. “Gender and Sexuality in Mangbetu Art.” In Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds. Ed. by Ruth B. Phillips and Christopher B. Steiner. Berkeley: University of California Press.