Knife: Head (Namambele)

Mangbetu peoples

Not on view

The art of the northern savanna is associated with the sumptuous royal courts of the Mangbetu peoples. At its height, the second half of the nineteenth century, Mangbetu aristocrats surrounded themselves with a wide variety of finely crafted boxes, jars, stools, pipes, musical instruments and weapons. This distinctive tradition of anthropomorphic sculpture developed around 1900. Although such forms predate the colonial presence, European patrons greatly increased the demand for them.
"Namambele" knives such as this example were worn at the belt, on the right side and were considered a mark of distinction. They were the sole property of the Mangbetu ruling aristocracy. In this example, the head is surmounted by the characteristic fan-shaped coiffure which identifies it as the head of a woman.

Knife: Head (Namambele), Iron, wood, Mangbetu peoples

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.