Historical Background
 
 
 Overview  <page 1>
The Mangbetu occupy the Uele river area in the Northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formally Zaire). Archaeological evidence shows iron smelting in the area since 2300 B.C.E., but the Mangbetu, coming from drier lands around present-day Uganda, did not arrive until about C.E. 1000. Through both conflict and cooperation, they exchanged cultural traditions with other societies of the area: Bantu-speaking peoples such as the Buda, Bua and Lese, and Ubangian-speaking peoples such as the Azande, Bangba, and Barambo. Around 1800 a number of small chiefdoms were consolidated into the first Mangbetu kingdom. Although this only lasted two generations, a tradition of courtly prestige continued even in small villages and spread to many of the Mangbetu’s trading partners. This combination of cultural diversity, exchange, and prestige resulted in a thriving artistic tradition.

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Figure 1 Map of Africa

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This webpage was last updated: 04/18/04