Shallow, features carved in low relief, this Lele mask is distinguished by its highlighted eyes and mouth and pointed nose. Its smooth, lustrous surface bears a reddish-brown patina, darker in places.
The Lélé, close to the Tschokwe and the Pende, live in the west of the Kuba kingdom and share common cultural specificities with the Bushoong of the Kuba country. Both groups adorn their prestige objects with similar motifs. Their society headed by a "nymi" king, includes three classes, that of the Tundu or warlords, the Batshwa ("those who reject the Tundu authority") and the Wongo called by the name of the neighboring ethnic group. The ritual ceremonies are under the authority of the oldest, chiefs of each village who hold the secrets of medicinal plants. These elders once formed, with the parents of twins, spiritual intermediaries, the bangang brotherhood responsible for the initiation of young people. The sculptor is in charge of extracting the palm wine, he also weaves the raffia. It produces the ritual cups in which the palm wine is consumed to conclude an agreement.
Source: "Kuba", ed. 5continents, Binkley and Darish, "African art", Mazenod.
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