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Lega Mask White Spotted Face Congo Africa

Product #: 113106
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Title Lega Mask White Spotted Face Congo Africa
Country of Origin Democractic Republic of Congo
People Lega
Materials Wood, pigment
Approximate Age Mid 20th Century
Dimensions Height: 7.75 Inches
Width: 5.25 Inches
Overall Condition Good. 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 worn, dirty surface with some chips to pigment.

Additional Information: 

The Lega people live near the northern end of Lake Tanganyika on the banks of the Lualaba River in the DR Congo.  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. Lega masks are usually carved in a distinctive style, with a heart-shaped, concave face, slightly protruding forehead, narrow nose, slit eyes and a slightly open mouth, often with a rather surprised and charming expression. 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 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. Masks were used for initiation to one of the first two levels of the Bwami society. The white sections were repainted with Pembe each time they were danced. The mask was worn by the initiate and also displayed on a fence.

Recommended Reading:

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