As the original label on the back of the photograph confirms, the sitter in this portrait is a Lalia child and the image was taken at Bosandongo, in the Ikela Territory, in the centre of what was then the Belgian Congo. The Lalia are a subset of the Mongo people, a Bantu ethnic group who today form the second largest ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young child in the photograph, who seems to be scrutinising the photographer, looks to be a young boy of six or seven, yet to receive the facial scarification which was typical of the Lalia.
Though no biographical information on Carlo Lamote has yet come to light, he was clearly a Belgian photographer working for Congopresse, the main agency for photojournalism in the Belgian Congo from its inception in 1947 until independence in 1960. Lamote’s image likely dates from the early 1950s. The University of Madison Wisconsin Libraries possess an image another Lalia sitter by Lamote, a man with a forehead scar and monkey skin headdress.
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