African art > Mask > Masquette Lega
Small Lega Lukwakongo mask (N° 14831)
Named Lukwagengo, these African masks in the shape of bleached faces, such as this reduced copy, are not face masks but are worn on the back of the head, on the forehead, hung on the shoulders, fixed on a bamboo stand or carried by hand during dances.
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These are the insignia of the penultimate rank of the Bwami initiates who surround a mother mask named idumu .
The wooden versions measure around 20 cm while the bone or even ivory versions are even smaller. 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. The passage of a rank indicated the acquisition of a certain individual wisdom and morality.
Ref.: "The Tribal Art of Black Africa J.0022 J.B. Bacquart; U.022Art of the Lega" E.L.Cameron "
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