African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Lega mask
Lega mask (N° 18720)
Ex-German African art collection.
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Numerous perforations decorate the surface of this African Lega mask. The coffee bean eyes, close together, surmount a narrow mouth on which incisions show teeth. Dark satin patina.
This carved work indicated the stage that its holder had reached in the Bwami, an apprenticeship society composed of different grades, which was joined by wives whose spouses had reached the third level, that of ngandu.
Within the Lega, 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 known as Warega , they live in autonomous villages surrounded by palisades, usually on hilltops. The role of the chief, kindi, is held by the oldest man of the clan, who must be the highest ranking member of the clan. As in other forest tribes, the men hunt and clear land while the women cultivate cassava. Social recognition and authority were also to be earned individually: the chief owed his selection to his heart (mutima), good character, intelligence, and irreproachable behavior. In ritual ceremonies, the masks Idumu were presented to the initiates placed on a barrier and surrounded by smaller masks.
The teacher guided the aspirant to a place where masks and statuettes were displayed, and it was through careful observation that the future initiate had to guess the more or less complex meaning of these metaphors, the latter referring largely to proverbs and sayings. Those who were not allowed to see the object, in order to be protected from it, had to submit to costly ceremonies, and sometimes even join the lower rank of Bwami, the kongabulumbu , at great expense to the families. Each of these initiations lasted seven days and included at least seven performances. Items "won" individually were then kept in a woven bag carried on the shoulder, in a basket for those who were won collectively. (Art of the Lega, Cameron)
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|Country||rdc ex zaire|
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