Head Wrapping: How The Mangbetu People Of Northern Congo Showed Their Beauty
A Mangbetu mother is seen holding her wide-eyed infant in this photo, dated c. 1930.
Before the custom died out in the mid-20th century, the Mangbetu people of northeastern Congo had a distinctive method of showing beauty and intelligence among themselves. Known as "Lipombo", the procedure consisted of tightly wrapping cord or cloth around a child's head from birth, with the purpose of elongating the skull. The process would continue a few years beyond infancy, with the extent of deformity tailored to the tastes of mother and child.
With more Europeans settling in the area throughout the 1950's, Lipombo was seen as a barbaric custom contradicting modern Western values. The ritual would be outlawed by then-ruling Belgian government, quite ironic given their track record of atrocities against the Congolese population.