african masksLega masks
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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A fine Lega mask from the Michel Boulanger collection.

 A fine Lega mask Provenance: Michel Boulanger 
(c) Collection David Norden.

This mask is for sale (higher price tag) call us for details at + 32 3 227 35 40

Lega Bwami masks-Congo 

The Lega people live nearby the northern end of Lake Tanganyika on the banks of the Lualaba River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and are also known as the Warega. 

Living in small village groups they have no centralized authority but govern themselves through a communal association known as Bwami. This association is composed of male and female members who strive to achieve advancement in the various ranks of Bwami in which advancement is dependent upon the initiates passing through a number of ranks to achieve status and prestige and recognition as moral individuals. 

For the Lega the ultimate goal is to reach the uppermost level of Bwami where one would be recognized as a Kindi, one who exercises moral suasion and is a leader in society. The complex system of instruction, initiation and advancement in Bwami uses masks and figures to document the various levels of Bwami and to serve as badges validating the initiate s knowledge of the secrets of Bwami and of their rank.

Initiates earn the privilege to wear and display masks that might be worn on their arms or faces or simply exposed on racks or on the ground to other Bwami society members indicating their rank. 

Lega masks are usually carved in a distinctive style, with a heart-shaped concave face with a slightly protruding forehead, a narrow nose, slit eyes and a slightly open mouth. The faces of the masks are rubbed with white clay (pembe) each time that they are used and thereby acquire the white pagination that color the face and enhance the various decorative designs as in this mask of dots around the face with lines under the eyes. 

Lega masks, known as Lukwakongo, are relatively standardized in form however masks of particular importance with ritual and symbolic distinction will have unique forms. 

The social and political life of the Lega (also known as the Warega) is regulated by the Bwami society, to which both men and women belong. There are seven levels for men, four levels for women. Most  masks where used for initiation to one of the first two levels of the Bwami society. 

The white sections were repainted with Pembe each time they were danced. 

The masks where worn by the initiates and also displayed on a fence.   

Lega culture

For similar examples, and more information, see ART OF AFRICA by Kerchache et al. Biebuyck, D. Lega culture; art, initiation, and moral philosophy among a Central African people 1973.

All lega masks from our african art collection

A little exhibition on view in my Shop in 1993 (all sold).

Lega  masks are used in ceremonies from the secret society association called Bwami, Lega men where members from during there whole life. Most Lega masks have raffia beards and symbolize the old age. Some samples you see on this page where collected during the two World wars, the others before 1955.

The Bwami members believes in the spirit from the ancestors. These masks and objects represents spirits from the deceased people or from the forest animals.

The masks where usually not put on the face but, on staffs side by side, or put on the arms to protect. Unless other statement all masks you see below where brought back by a Belgian colonial before 1952, and should be dated from the '40 s.

The art of the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo presents exquisite masks, spoons, baskets, abstracted figures, hats, and other types of objects made from a variety of materials. Among the Lega, works of art are an integral part of an adult initiation society called Bwami, and they teach men and women values essential to their way of life. 

read also Art of the Lega : Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa 

Lega books and tribe

Lega KBC: Ethics and Beauty in the Heart of Africa


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In this section:
Lega masks
Luba- Lion king
Tchokwe Lunda

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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