African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Lega mask

Small Lega Lukwakongo mask (N° 19244)

Primitive Lega sculptures in African art. This mask, which was not intended to be worn, but manipulated during rituals, displays heart-shaped eye sockets and coffee-bean eyelids, a simply incised mouth, giving it an enigmatic expression. Smooth satin patina, whose center is coated with kaolin. This African Lega mask 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 . Total height on pedestal: 27 cm.
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, these individuals live in autonomous villages surrounded by palisades, usually on hilltops. The role of chief, Kindi, is held by the oldest man in the clan, who is expected to be the highest ranking member. As in other forest tribes, the men hunt and clear land while the women grow 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, 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 both men and women. The passing of a grade indicated the acquisition of a certain individual wisdom and morality.  

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OriginCollection belge
EthnyLega
Countryrdc ex zaire
Material(s)wood, kaolin
Height17
Width12
Weight0.10 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°
Socle includedYes

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