Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Lega Warega Mask Congo African Art

AvailabilityIn stock
Special Price $89.00 Regular Price $190.00
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Brand Unbranded
Title Lega Warega Mask Congo African Art
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of Congo
People Lega, Warega
Materials Wood and pigment.
Approximate Age 20th Century
Height (in) 17.5
Width (in) 11
Depth (in) 1
Overall Condition Fair to 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 Cracks and embedded dirt

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.

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.

"Lega" African masks, which are a type of mask used by the Lega people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lega masks are typically carved from wood and feature elongated faces with a central ridge, large almond-shaped eyes, and a small mouth. They are often decorated with intricate geometric patterns or symbolic motifs that represent aspects of Lega culture and beliefs.

These masks are typically used in the context of initiation and other important ceremonies, such as funerals and celebrations. They are believed to embody spiritual forces and serve as a means of communication between the living and the ancestors.

Lega masks are highly valued by collectors and art enthusiasts around the world for their intricate craftsmanship and symbolic significance. However, it's important to note that these masks are not just works of art but have important cultural and spiritual significance for the Lega people.

For the Lega the ultimate goal is to reach the uppermost level of "Bwami" when one would become a "Kindi," one who exercises moral influence within society. The complex system of instruction, initiation and advancement in Bwami uses masks and figures to document the various levels of Bwami and to serve as badges validating the initiate’s knowledge of the secrets of Bwami and of their rank.

Initiates earn the privilege to wear and display masks which might be worn on their arms or faces or simply exposed on racks or on the ground.

Recommended Reading:

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