African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Masque Lega
Masque Lega Lukwakongo (N° 14016)
Lega primitive sculptures in African art.
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This mask, which was not intended to be worn, but manipulated during rituals, displays an oblong face in which the eye sockets are hollowed out in the heart. The coffee bean eyes, the nostrils, are hollowed out, the mouth absent. Smooth satin patina, the center of which is smeared with a crust of chipped kaolin. This African Lega mask indicated the stage that its holder had reached within the Bwami, a learning society composed of different ranks, and which were joined by wives whose spouse had reached the third level, that of the ngandu . Within the Lega, the society of Bwami 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, the collectively owned Idumu masks were presented to initiates placed on a fence and surrounded by smaller individual masks. This mask is used during the initiation rites of the Bwami society. It is open to men and women. The passage of a rank indicated the acquisition of a certain individual wisdom and morality.
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