HCK 0610-8 – SOLD
Lega Mask, DR Congo, Africa
H: 27 cm (10,6″), B: 16,5 cm (6,5″)
The charming masks from the Lega tribe in the Congo, has long been admired for their simple and elegant forms. With their abstract qualities, they seem most modern, and together with many other African masks, Lega masks have been a great source of inspiration for important modern artists such as Pablo Picasso, George Braque and Henri Matisse.
Lega masks are usually carved in a distinctive style, with a heart-shaped concave face, a slightly protruding forehead, a narrow nose, slit eyes and a slightly open mouth. The faces of the masks are rubbed with white clay each time they are used, which gives the mask a changing appearance and enhances the various decorative designs that emerges with every stroke of the hand over time.
The original function of the mask
Masks among the Lega are used by men and women of the bwami society. The function of the bwami is to guide in several aspect of Lega life, such as to social, political, economic, juridical, ethical, philosophical and artistic spheres. Bwami masks and figures are symbols of the owner’s rank within the multileveled Bwami society. Each member strives to advance up through the various ranks of Bwami, a long process which involves challenges as well as proof of knowledge. Young men and women are initiated into the lowest level of Bwami when they take their places as adults in society. As they mature and demonstrate increasing promise, they ascend through the society’s higher levels.
Age: Collected in the 1950s
Provenance: Private Belgian collection
Matisse, Portrait of Madame Matisse (detail), 1913 and Gabon Mask from “Primitivism” catalog. For more info see: