african masksArt of the Lega
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa   

Lega spoon

Multiheaded-LegaThe University of Michigan Museum of Art

525 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Telephone: (734) 764-0395; Fax: (734) 764-3731 

The University of Michigan Museum of Art houses one of the finest university art collections in the country and the second largest art collection in the state of Michigan. A community museum in a university setting, the Museum of Art offers visitors a rich and diverse permanent collection, supplemented by a lively, provocative series of special exhibitions and a full complement of interpretive programs.

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October 16, 2004–January 16, 2005

A spoon signifies the association between feeding and growth.
A multiheaded figure personifies the inability to act alone.
A highly polished mussel shell shines like the light of the moon.

Imagine a society without elected or hereditary rulers.
Imagine a society where prestige and influence correspond to morals and ethics.
Imagine a society that calls upon art to teach and inspire.

Lega Human Figure with Raised ArmLega, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood
Promised gift of Jay T. Last, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History
Photo by Don Cole

This exhibition presents a rich array of masks, spoons, baskets, and abstracted figures that provide a fascinating window into the aesthetics and spiritual life of the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Central to the imagery of the Lega are references to the Bwami Society, a complex organization that provides political, religious, and social structure to the Lega peoples. Works of art are used by the Lega to teach the many lessons, stories, and values that must be learned by initiates moving up through the ranks of the Bwami Society. The installation itself will mirror for Museum visitors the initiation process of the Bwami Society.

Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa was co-organized and produced by the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. This exhibition is made possible in part by the support of Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen. Additional support has been provided by Helmut F. Stern, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Katherine Tuck Enrichment Fund, and the Doris Sloan Memorial Fund

WHERE CAN I SEE THIS EXHIBITION ? The University of Michigan Museum of Art

See also the other exhibition at UMMA on Yoruba and UMMA Michigan

Want to read a BOOK about the Art of the Lega ?

Biebuyck, D. Lega culture; art, initiation, and moral philosophy among a Central African people 1973

Drawing upon diverse sources, including Daniel P. Biebuyck's seminal fieldwork of the 1950s, Elisabeth Cameron ( assistant professor of art history at the University of California at Santa Cruz)  investigates the culture and the art of the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among the Lega, art is only created for and used by the Bwami Society. Bwami is a complex organization consisting of multiple levels, and it forms an essential component of the political, social, and religious structure of the Lega. Within Bwami, artworks are used in conjunction with proverbs, anecdotes, and performances to form complex layered metaphors and to serve as mnemonic devices. As initiates move up through the ranks of the Bwami Society, a variety of different artworks assist them in recalling a vast corpus of complex aphorisms. The many beautiful examples of Lega artworks illustrated in this volume are drawn primarily from the Jay T. Last collection and include masks, animals, human forms, miniature tools, and spoons.  

La sculpture des Lega
Author: Daniel P Biebuyck;

Symbolism of the Lega stool
Author: Daniel P Biebuyck;

Lega culture
Author: Daniel P Biebuyck;

Effects on art of the outlawing of the bwami associati...
Author: Daniel P Biebuyck;

Product image for ASIN: 0930741870 Art of the Lega
Author: Elisabeth Lynn Cameron; Buy New: $56.09

Read a text about our  Lega Bwami masks

read also UMMA Masterworks of African Art: Yoruba Images and Aesthetics 

Lega KBC: Ethics and Beauty in the Heart of Africa

Lega books and tribe

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