Lega Mask

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NAK 0614-5 – SOLD

Lega Lukungu Ivory Mask, Zaïre (D.R. of Congo)


H: 8,5 cm (3,4”), W: 4 cm (1,6”)

Age: Ca. 20th Century AD

Provenance: Brussel gallery ex private Belgian collection

This Lega mask is known as lukungu lwa tata, which literally means ‘skull of my father.’ Lukungu are carved from elephant ivory or bone and are bestowed on certain males considered to have attained the utmost virtue and wisdom. Lega place great emphasis on social harmony and cohesiveness among their communities. This is primarily maintained by the initiation society called Bwami. This hierarchal society oversees the religious and social life of the Lega and is open to both men and women. The Bwami society is also the context for production of Lega artwork. Different masks are bestowed as a member moves up in the ranks of the hierarchy.

Elephant ivory or bone is reserved for this small mask type, which is the insignia of the peak level of male initiation (kindi). Few men achieve this highest level. These sacred masks are displayed on rare occasions and are not generally worn on the body, but hung on fences. After a kindi owner dies, his mask is displayed at his grave until a replacement is ‘chosen’ from his lineage by Bwami members. During the transfer rite the lukungu masks of all attending kindi are displayed on the pala fence surrounding the initiation.

Hahner-Herzog, Iris, Das Zweite Gesicht, Genf, München, New York 1997, p. 93 f.
Cameron, Elisabeth L., Art of the Lega, Los Angeles 2001, p. 216 f.

Click here for more information about the Lega people

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