240214 - Rare African Pygmy Mbuti Barkcloth Ituri Rainforest - Congo


Rare African Pygmy Mbuti Barkcloth Ituri Rainforest - CongoSize; 62 cm x 23 cm.
Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents and have been cherished by various Ituri owners. Small cracks, abrasions and fissures are a normal part of their patina and testify to their age and extensive use.The Mbuti people who live in the Ituri rainforest of the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, are one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer cultures in the world.
Since 3500 BC they have been famous for their rich and extraordinary music and dance arts, but until recently the bark drawings and paintings created by Mbuti women were virtually unknown in the West.Originally created as loincloths for ceremonies and dances, these drawings are sophisticated abstract compositions that embody the qualities of improvisation and syncopation associated with the African visual and musical sensibility.
The Mbuti people of the Ituri Forest in the Republic of Congo are among the last living groups to still practice a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The bark cloths made by the pygmy Mbuti women are extremely beautifully drawn with all kinds of Ituri symbolism.
The Greek word "pygmy" comes from the Iliad, the oldest poem in Western culture. The existence of groups of small people in the Congo has been documented by Stanley and others before him; there are a number of groups of “pygmies”, but only the Mbuti produce painted bark cloth.
The barkcloth is made from different trees, usually the latex ficus. They are made from bark, which is found between the bark and the sap of the tree. Women and children wear one rectangle in the front, like a skirt, and sometimes an extra one in the back. Men wear one that covers the buttocks, is brought between the legs to the waist, where it is held by a belt, and draped over the top.
A woman chooses the tree and a man cuts the tree and removes the bark, which is then soaked in water and hammered two or more times. The pagnes are not painted, except for special events. Women paint with natural dyes from fruits, nuts and herbs. The most common blue-black dye is from the gardenia.
Recommended reading: For more information and similar examples, see MBUTI DESIGN-PAINTINGS BY PYGMY WOMEN OF THE ITURI FOREST. by Meurant and Thompson.