African art > Mask > Mask Lega
Mask Lega (N° 14643)
Beneath an ovoid forehead, protruding almond eyelids, a long narrow nose, under which are pierced nostrils, an absent mouth, make up the minimalist aspect of this African lega mask. This object indicated the stage that its holder had reached within the Bwami, a learning company composed of different ranks, and which were joined by the wives whose spouse had reached the third level, that of the ngandu . Locally matted satin surface, ocré residues of kaolin.
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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 in 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 the chief, kindi, is held by the oldest man in the clan, who must be the highest-ranking. As in other forest tribes, men hunt and clear while women grow cassava. Social recognition and authority also had to be won individually: the chief owed his selection to his heart (mutima), good character, intelligence, and impeccable behavior. During ritual ceremonies, Idumu masks were presented to initiates placed on a fence and surrounded by smaller masks.
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