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Mangbetu Hair Pin
Early 20th Century
The gentle sweep of this pin flares at the end to form a shallow disc and would have been a highly prized adornment. Such was the value placed on these simple, beautiful forms that the gift of such an object from a woman was reportedly tantamount to an invitation to intimacy.
Traditionally both men and women have worn hairpins and those carved in ivory are particularly prestigious. Frequently the pin was carved separately from the disc which saved a huge amount of ivory so one such as this carved in one piece was particularly highly valued. Men would have used a long pin to secure their very finely woven hats to their hair whilst women used them to decorate their elaborate hairstyles.
The pins would also have drawn attention to the elongated heads which the Mangbetu people prized as a sign of status and which were formed by binding the baby's skull soon after birth for about two years until the desired shape was achieved.
Provenance: European Collection
Bibliography: White Gold, Black Hands. Ivory Sculpture in Congo Vol.7 p.90-99
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