Lega Mask

hck-0612-8_f_  hck-0612-8_v_  hck-0612-8_b_  hck-0612-8_34p_

HCK 0612-8

Lega Mask, Congo

H: 12 cm (4,7″), W: 8,5 cm (3,3″)

Provenance: Private Belgian collection.

This small, bearded lukwakongo mask is from the insignia of the Bwami subgroup yananio, the last grade before reaching the pinnacle in the association. Representing the ideal Lega man, it is not only an object of transformation or concealment like a conventional face mask. It may be worn on other parts of the body, simply held in one’s hands or displayed on the ground, a mat, or a fence.

Lukwakongo literally means “death gathers in”, a reference to the portrayal and importance of the ancestors. As Bwami members successfully complete a level or grade, they participate in the lutumbo lwa kindi rite, receiving grade-related masks that had belonged to other members who had reached the same grade. Before the presentation, the mask is placed on an ancestral grave to express continuity of Bwami leadership from the past to the present.

Lega masks are often displayed on a special fence surrounding a large wooden mask during the lutumbo lwa kindi rite.

Literature: ‘Lega Culture; Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy Among a Central African by Daniel P. Biebuyck, University of California 1973.

Click here for more information about the Lega people

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