Plant fibers and dye
Overall: 26 x 33.7 x 10.2 cm (10 1/4 x 13 1/4 x 4 in.)
Gift of the African Art Sponsors of Karamu House 1929.354
A contemporary fashion in 1929, when it was purchased or collected, this egbe is now a historical document of past styles.
Egbe (singular: negbe) were fashionable and practical garments aristocratic Mangbetu women made for special occasions. Worn over a skirt, it tied onto a girdle along with a frontal “apron.” The curved interior piece rested on the lower back. Thickly woven, flexible natural fibers bent with the body, cushioning the wearer’s behind when sitting. When the woman was standing, the decorated flat portion faced outward, showing off bold geometric motifs. Egbe were among items sold to foreigners at the Mangbetu king’s encouragement as the Mangbetu actively constructed their self image for outsiders during the 1920s and 1930s.
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