African & Tribal Art :
Miscellaneous : Lega Ivory Mask
Lega Ivory Mask - SP.161
7" (17.8cm) high
x 3.75" (9.5cm) wide
Location: United States
| Photo Gallery
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
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
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, 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,
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.