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Lega Mask Bwami Society Congo African Art 15 Inch Stand

Product #: 115510
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Title Lega Mask Bwami Society Congo African Art 15 Inch Stand
Type of Object Face mask
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of the Congo
People Lega
Materials Wood, pigment
Approximate Age Mid 20th Century
Dimensions Height: 9.5 Inches
Width: 6.5 Inches
On stand: 15.5 inches H x 4.5 x 3.5 inch base
Overall Condition Fair. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair White pigment worn away in some places, crack

Additional Information:  A well-carved example of Lega wooden face mask. The face is enhanced by the the eyebows exceptionally carved in relief. The long and fine nose as well as the open eyes and mouth are carved according to the Lega style. The surfaces of the masks are rubbed with kaolin/pembe each time they are used, and thus acquire their striking white appearance. Though fairly common, Lega masks continue to be incredibly popular with collectors.

The Lega people live near the northern end of Lake Tanganyika on the banks of the Lualaba River in the DRC. They are also known as the Warega. Living in small village groups, they have no centralized authority, but govern themselves through a communal association known as "Bwami." This association is composed of male and female members, who strive to advance up through the various ranks of Bwami, a long process which involves challenges as well as proof of knowledge.

The ultimate goal for the initiate is to reach the highest level, and become a "Kindi," a position of power, prestige and influence with the village. It is during the various Bwami ceremonies that the charming and popular heart-faced masks are used. The masks are transported in baskets from village to village by high-ranking elders.

The social and political life of the Lega (also known as the Warega) is regulated by the Bwami society, to which both men and women belong. There are seven levels for men, four levels for women. This mask is said to have been used in female circumcision (as of 2007, FGM in the DRC is said to be below 5%1). The masks were repainted with Pembe each time they were danced. The mask was worn by the initiate and also displayed on a fence. This is a desirable piece of art that would stand out in any collection. The surface indicates some age. 

1- Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo: The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and legislation prohibiting the practice (2008-March 2012), 17 April 2012, COD104024.E, available at: [accessed 25 February 2015]

Recommended Reading:

For similar examples, and more information, see "ART OF AFRICA" by Kerchache et al.