220950 - Old Large African Lega statue or head mask - Congo.
Tribal used African Lega sculpture or head mask from Congo.
Hand carved from a single piece wood.
Size: 59 cm x 33 cm x 28 cm.
The Lega people (or Warega) are a Bantu ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1998 their population was about 250,000.
The Lega people traditionally live in small village groups, with no central authority. Within a community, a chief inherits his position on a patrilineal basis, and his close relatives have highest rank.
Counterbalancing this hereditary structure, the Bwami society also regulates social and political life. This society has seven levels for men and four for women and is open to all. An initiate advances through the ranks through a complex system of instruction, payment and initiation, achieving increasing status. A member of the highest level is recognized as a Kindi, a social leader with great moral authority.
The Lega people are polytheistic. Their gods include Kalaga, the promiser; Kenkunga, the reassembler; Ombe, the hidden; Kaginga, the incarnation of evil. Kaginga assists sorcerers, but Bwami membership can protect an individual against the evil doings of witches.
Bwami masks and figures are symbols of the owner's rank within the Bwami society. The objects represent moral or social values, and are used during initiation rites. The Bwami works of art are often associated with proverbs, and these proverbs in conjunction with dance, poetry and song give wisdom to members of the society. Beauty, knowledge and power are intertwined.
Some artwork can only be seen, handled or owned by the highest grades of the society. The objects are typically small and simple in form, and have a striking patina that derives from being handled or worn on the body. Ivory objects usually have russet or yellow patinas. The masks are fairly standardized, although the most important masks with special ritual use or symbolic meaning may have distinctive design. A typical mask will have a concave heart-shaped face. The forehead protrudes slightly, the nose is narrow, eyes are slits and the mouth is slightly open. Every time a mask is used it is rubbed w white clay, over time acquiring a white patina