br>Sculpted in the form of a heart, the orbits of this Lega mask are coated with kaolin, also enveloping the nose. The mouth is incised, symolizing a dentition. A raffia beard extends the jawline. Smooth surface, matte patina. This African Lega mask indicated the stage that its holder had reached within the Bwami, a learning society made up of different grades, and joined by wives whose spouses had reached the third level, that of ngandu .
Mask with beard: 46 cm.
Within the Léga, the Bwami society, open to men and women, organized social and political life. There were up to seven levels of initiation, each associated with emblems. Following their exodus from Uganda during the 17th century, the Lega settled on the west bank of the Lualaba River in the DRC. Also called Warega, these individuals live in self-contained villages surrounded by palisades, usually on top of hills. The role of chief, kindi, is held by the oldest man in the clan, who must be the highest ranking. Social recognition and authority also had to be earned individually: the chief owed his selection to his heart (mutima), good character, intelligence, and irreproachable behavior. During ritual ceremonies, Idumu masks were presented to initiates placed on a barrier and surrounded by masks of smaller format.
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