The Bwami society is the context for the production
of most Lega art work, which includes ivory and
wooden statuettes and masks. Ivory objects are
reserved for the highest level, Kindi, while wooden
objects are used by Kindi and Yonanio, the second
History:In the 16th century the Lega began their
long migration from modern day Uganda into their
present location. They were a warlike people whose
fierceness inspired those, with whom they came
contact, to adopt many Lega customs. In the 17th
century they attacked the Rwandan outpost of
Rutshurer on their way to Maniema, just west of
Lake Tanganyika, dividing and conquering the
people who lived in the region. Many cultural traits
have been assimilated into the surrounding
and the Lega still dominate the region today.
Economy:Although traditionally the Lega were
mostly farmers, raising manioc, bananas, and rice,
they have recently been panning for gold in alluvial
river deposits. There are also iron ore mines in the
region which employ local labor. The Bwami
which is a political organization, requires large
payments from those who wish to advance. As a
result, even in very rural areas, there is a large
amount of currency in circulation.
Political Systems:The Lega are not organized under
one centralized authority. Instead, individual
communities are stratified in accordance with
lineage hierarchies. The leader of the lineage
inherits his position along patrilineal lines. This
system is balanced by the Bwami society, which is
theoretically open to all Lega, and involves
movement through numerous hierarchical stages.
One's power in the community is often determined
by one's power in Bwami. The demand for high
payment that is made for movement through
often acts to challenge the lineage power structure.
Religion:The main gods are Kalaga, the promiser;
Kenkunga, the reassembler; and Ombe, the
Kaginga is recognized as the incarnation of evil
assists sorcerers. By joining Bwami one can develop
an immunity to the evil doings of most witches.
highest rank of Bwami is Kindi and is directly
associated with the skulls of the ancestors, which
are placed in a hut at the center of the village.
Objects which contain powerful supernatural
medicines are not exposed to public eye but are
instead placed with the Kindi.
Credits: Christopher D. Roy