Lot n° 197
150 - 250
Lega mask, DRC
Small, oval, flat African... - Lot 197 - Arthema Auction
Lega mask, DRC
Small, oval, flat African mask with a light patina and residual kaolin inlays.
This sculpted work indicated the stage reached by its bearer within the Bwami, an apprenticeship society composed of different ranks, and joined by wives whose spouse had reached the third level, that of the ngandu.
22 x 11 cm
Height on base: 35 cm
Within the Lega, the Bwami society, open to both 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 in the 17th century, the Lega settled on the west bank of the Lualaba River in the DRC. During ritual ceremonies, Idumu masks were presented to initiates placed on a fence and surrounded by smaller masks. The teacher would guide the aspirant to a place where masks and statuettes were displayed, and it was through careful observation that the future initiate had to guess the more or less complex meaning of these metaphors, which largely referred to proverbs and sayings. Those who were not allowed to see the object, in order to be protected from it, had to undergo costly ceremonies, and sometimes even join the lower rank of the Bwami, the kongabulumbu, at great expense to the families. Each of these initiations took place over seven days and involved at least seven performances. The objects "won" individually were then kept in a woven bag slung over the shoulder, or in a basket for those won collectively. (Art of the Lega, Cameron)
Return to catalogue