Women And Cosmetics


A tribe in Central Africa, north eastern Congo had a rather distinctive look. It involved binding the head tightly to deform it to a conical head shape as below.


A baby’s head would be tightly wrapped in a custom called ‘Lipombo.’ It would begin a month after birth and continue for the next couple of years until the desired shape was reached. The practice was seen as a status symbol denoting majesty, power, beauty and higher intelligence.

Perhaps surprisingly the practice did not necessarily affect the brain which is soft and malleable in a baby’s head and simply follows the prevailing shape of it’s container.


The practice began to die out as late as the 1950’s upon the arrival of westerners. It was also outlawed by the Belgian government who ruled colonial Congo at the time.

It is interesting that most images of this physical deformity are women.Β  Although I have seen a few men bearing the conical head shape.



What Say You?

How does this practice strike you?

Think you would have taken part in this practice had you found yourself in this location pre 1950?

49 thoughts on “Women And Cosmetics

  1. The Maya did the same. To men and women. If you look at the paintings at Bonampak it is quite obvious. And to be clear, I find it as barbaric as female excision… Culture or no culture. πŸ™‚

  2. I wouldn’t have done it, but then I don’t shave my legs or pluck my eyebrows now. Oddly enough I am pursuing plastic surgery, but that is due to something that interferes with daily activities and limits my ability to exercise. It doesn’t seem (the head moulding) like it is harmful, unlike (for instance) various forms of genital mutilation, so why not?

  3. they’re not the only ones to do exactly that either, there was a tribe of American aboriginal who did that too, Pacific Northwest, I believe. I imagine it’s an ingenious identifier for your tribe, hard to fake

  4. Going against societal norm is not an easy task. And don’t forget these kids had no choice. The process started when they were born. And the Mom got fed by the Dad and if he followed cultural norms then what could she realistically do. Disobey him and risk no marriage and place to live. I think this is a tough question to answer because the “baby” had no choice just the mother and she probably was at the dictates of her husband and mother-in-law. So she was kind of stuck—

      1. It takes a lot! of courage to go against the “grain.” If she did have that courage then she would have had to figured out a way to provide shelter and food for herself and I doubt that that would have been easy for her. But there’s always the “exception” to the rule. Just know that there is always a “price” and you have to have the courage and the “resources” to be able to comfortably make the choice to go “against!”. I think that it just comes down to the nature of the individual and if they’re willing to take the risk. But make no mistake. In her position, with little resources—she’d have to be particularly brave. Just my opinion… πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  5. “Think you would have taken part in this practice had you found yourself in this location pre 1950?”

    Yes – we would all have conformed to the societal norm. Very interesting post – I didn’t know about such a thing. I suppose not as bad as binding feet which crippled you!

    1. But see that’s what I find interesting about humanity. There is always that James Baldwin, David Bowie, Oscar Wilde, Tilda Swinton-esque character that says ‘Actually, no I don’t think I will conform. Thanks anyway.’

  6. Hi Madam Ed! long time no write, Been away

    This custom, in my humble opinion, is as barbaric as the Chinese binding of the feet. It’s got to cause a bit of brain damage when such a small brain is bound so tightly just for the sake of ‘a look’.

    There are so many barbaric customs within the African people, that it boggles the mind, but this one is gross and cruel. I can only imagine how the babies cry.

    Often within the African Cultures, status is a biggie. So like the Ndebele people who put brass rings around their necks to stretch them, and the Xhosa people who take young men to the bush and circumcise them with a jagged rock, whereby many die, and so many more stupid dangerous practices, lend me to believe WHY Africa is in such a diabolical state in all ways. Their stupid customs, I think have made them thick.

    Sorry my humble opinion, but when you hurt a baby or child with some crap that you believe in, you are a barbarian. Another one is the circumcision of young girls……….I could go on, but won’t.

    I deplore this practice. It’s akin to abuse. And that’s what I have to say about that! x x

    1. Ha! Love it! No holds barred with you! And yes I was about to send out a search party. πŸ™‚ Hope it was a good (buying?) trip?

      Now regarding these customs. I agree with you absolutely, but you have to consider that most of these people do these things BECAUSE they think it is for the betterment of their child. The fact that it actually isn’t is neither here nor there because they don’t know any different.

      These are not book educated people and as you may know their customs are passed from mouth to mouth i.e one uneducated head to another. So a mother circumcising her daughter is doing it because she wants her daughter to be successfully married and breeding (which = success in a bush village) not because she wants to hurt her (generally speaking).

      Of course it’s all man made gobbledegook and nonsense, but the west has enough man made beliefs and nonsense to equally match theirs and just as potentially abusive. Just my two cents.
      Welcome back. Looking forward to seeing the new goodies if it were indeed a shopping trip.

      1. Thanks for your reply Madam Ed. No it wasn’t a buying trip this time! I’ve actually closed my online shop, due to too little traffic and not enough money to keep up with the SEO people, who don’t seem to be doing much.:( So I’m turning my hand to shabby chic’ing furniture, which I’m selling via Ebay. I might ask you to do me a solid, and help me link my site to Ebay site? Sorry my lovely, but I have NO clue how to do this, and I’m making some stunning pieces (painting should I say and ageing).

        Yes about the Mother believing she’s only doing the right thing. I should’ve put that in there, but I was incensed at the practices that go on. So I just added a few that I’ve seen and know of.

        It’s ALL manmade junk of course, and so very cruel.

        Suffice to say, we can only watch and hope these practices end.

      2. The SEO people were supposed to optimise my profile on google and other sites. They charged a fortune and nothing ever happened. On top of that, I had to pay the darn website ppl, and in the end, it was too much. Your intuition tells you when something is not working and you’re being ripped off. So I told them all to F off, and now sell on Ebay! What else to do? πŸ™‚ I just have to link my blog site to my Ebay site, until then, I’ll talk about mental illness. It’s another topic that soooo many people need to hear about.

      3. It is not easy my little SA Flower or everyone would be doing it! πŸ™‚ But it CAN be done. You have to be persistent my sweet. You have to have a plan of action that you keep reviewing and making sure that you are not forgetting the basic online chores that simply have to be done if you want to compete.
        This dog-eared persistence is perhaps not for everyone.

        But if Ebay is what gets you the sales you need, that is EXACTLY what you should be doing!

        After you get those sales and want a new website later you can always get one.

        But it seems to me after your experience that you don’t need to spend any more large sums for a while and you need to bring some in instead!

        And talking of the team. If you need tech assistance or tech advice (for example they could have checked out your SEO people for you as they know SEO and what questions to ask!) click the link on the right and you can get help with links and any other bits you require, whenever you wish without waiting for your son or anyone else, or worrying that what you need is not getting done.

        To be fair if you were waiting for me and my back-log you’d be well into next year as I am snowed under at the moment with paying clients and my other duties. But the tech boys and gals will look after you.

        The link is there. Use when you need it.
        Don’t worry about a thing (at least techy things!) and tell them The Ed sent you.

      4. My darling angel wonderful Madam E. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You have such an amazing essence, it bounces off the pages! I don’t expect you to do anything for me personally, I know that you are waaay, too busy. That would be totally selfish to expect you to attend to ME! How darn arrogant would that be?

        I could get a WIX website, which is apparently for free, so I’m going to look into that, and if your tech guys and gals can help me, OMW, I’d be SO grateful!! I’m already so grateful to you for all you help me with, it kinda overflows sometimes πŸ™‚
        So thank you, and I’ll look into a new kind of website. If I know what to do to make it google friendly, then I’ll definitely go that way. Thank you again.

        I’m now doing guided meditations for Bipolars and Borderlines, and it’s working! I’m so happy about this, because the one thing about these mental illnesses that is so important, is to quieten the mind. So this is my new gig, until I get my new site up and running, well I’ll continue to do them, because they truly help the mentally ill. I’m so grateful that I know how to do this, I don’t know how I know, but I just know. I’m blessed with so much, you included.

        So I’m going to go on over to your guys and just muscle in with WHO I know! HA! hilarious and fun! Thanks again Madam E, you are such a sweetie, so kind and I’m SO grateful. xxx

      5. Oh what a great idea! Right up your street because you understand the illness. You could develop that well I expect with your audience at you Tube.
        Yes I suggested a free website in my previous comment and then removed it as I had written too much information – but yes, that is also a good direction. But try not to overwhelm yourself. Ebaying, WIXing, the meditations plus some other things you have mentioned.

        Obviously I don’t know about your personal diagnosis but I do know overwhelm and lots of ideas at once can be a symptom of bi-polar. But even without bi-polar I would always suggest establishing one or maybe two things solidly before moving onto another.

        And don’t forget that even with a spanking new website, that is FREE this time…you STILL have to be persistent with the marketing and SEO chores that you were trying to do with the previous one. Just a heads up. But I know you have it in you. πŸ™‚

      6. Thanks so much for all your advice and support Madam E. You truly are an inspiration to me. Yes, I’ve had a very good response from the meditation for Bipolar and Borderlines with my Youtube followers so far, so I’m truly pleased that it’s working.

        You are SO right to remind me that LOTS of ideas have to do with Bipolar (which is what I have, coupled with Borderline! Oh joy), and so I’m always racing here and there. hmmm, I will take your advice and only do ONE or TWO projects at once. That is so more doable and satisfying.

        I tried the WIX site, but blow me down, if I could load pics etc….so got a bit twitchy and left it LOL…maybe when my mind calms down, I’ll give it another whirl. πŸ™‚

        Thanks so much again for your constant support and advice, you truly are my mentor x x

      7. Thanks Madam E. After the WIX encounter, I crapped myself and wimped into a corner. The photo’s uploaded the size of Trumps mouth, and I was cross eyed trying to work out what to do. Suffice to say, I’m sticking to mental illness for now anyway, till I find someone to help me with a new site.

        At least I KNOW how madness WORKS. This WIX thing IS madness, but it ain’t working the way I know!!

    2. I understand what you’re saying but I feel that there’s some wild generalisations in your comment, not to mention that you imply that it’s only Africans who do things when there are examples throughout the world.

      1. Hi liitemissw, no there’s no wild generalizations. Everything I’ve said is true. I could give more examples, but won’t. They are too heinous. MOSTLY these practices happen on the African Continent. I know having lived my entire life there and interacted with Witch doctors etc, to try and understand WHY? I received many answers from the Witch doctors I’ve spoken to, none of which make any sense to ME. Perhaps to the people who are petrified of them, they make sense, but not to me, or any other Westerner I guess. Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it.

    3. This ‘…WHY Africa is in such a diabolical state in all ways. Their stupid customs, I think have made them thick.’ I feel is a wild generalisation.

      Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that this, along with other customs that you’ve discussed, are barbaric and cruel and hopefully can be stopped through greater education and support.

  7. Not the first time a culture altered it’s looks…foot binding, or rings around the neck to stretch it out. I can’t say what I’d do. If I was born into that, I guess I’d do it as it would have been part of my history….if that makes sense.

  8. No I wud not be part of this.. I am happy with my lovely jubley one pack big fat figure.. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€ the tight figure hugging clothes work wonders on me.. 😎😎

    Coming back to post.. This I did not know.. It is so weird and hard to. . I bet it hurt a lot as it would need to be really tight for the head to take shape. .

  9. I probably would have. I think many, if not most, people conform to the beauty ideals of their time, society and culture.

    I went on my first diet when I was twelve and my weight has been a preoccupation since that time. Not a preoccupation with being a healthy weight mind you, or being healthy in general, just a preoccupation with being ‘thin’ or being a certain size. It’s not different to shaping ones head or wearing metal rings to stretch your neck or weighted earrings to stretch your earlobes. Human beings do weird things to be accepted.

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