Lega Bwami Society Mask - Lukungu
Country: DR Congo.
Date: early 20th century.
Medium: wood, kaolin.
Size: h. 22 cm (8 ¾ in.).
Provenance: ex Mark Eglinton, New York.
Extra: The Lega are a large ethnic group in the Western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Lega masks are used as initiation objects. Both men and women in Lega culture enter the centuries-old Bwami society to learn skills and wisdom for life that are taught to initiates through art. Comprising five levels for men and three for woman, Bwami is a voluntary association open to all Lega and its influence is meant to encompass the breadth of a person’s life. Unlike many masks in other African cultures, the masks of the Lega are not usually worn over the face, they are attached to the body, held in the hand or simply hung on fences during the initiation ceremonies.
Like most Lega masks, this particular piece of work is simple but elegant with a concave heart-shape face. The facial features are delicate, with a thin and long nose, and small opening of a mouth and eyes, shaped like cowrie shells. A nice patina is present on the surface.
Photo credit: © Jean Godecharle.
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