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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Archive : Lega Wooden Sculpture
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Lega Wooden Sculpture - CK.0723
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 12.5" (31.8cm) high x 4.5" (11.4cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Style: Lega
Medium: Wood


Additional Information: sold

Location: United States
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Description
The Lega people are amongst Africa’s best- known carvers and artists. Currently settled in the Kivu province of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, they believe themselves to be descended from an eponymous ancestor who migrated into the area from what is now Uganda. They are also known as Warega and Balega, based on corruptions of their actual name by neighbouring groups and Arab traders, respectively. They live in small villages and consider themselves parts of distinct lineages, although to outsiders the “Lega” group is a well- defined unit. They are further defined on the basis of their modes of subsistence. The western Lega settled in the forest (malinga), where they rely on hunting and gathering, while the eastern groups live on poor soils, further denuded by their mode of slash- and-burn agriculture.

In general terms, Lega figures are used by members of the Bwami society, who commission the figure with a general description of how it should look (pose, material etc) but who leave the details to the carver. All figures tend to represent aspects of the ideal Lega – a large forehead, a shaved head (sometimes with a cap) and a straight posture – and are endowed with the characteristics of a Bwami initiate: washed, shining and proud. Some figures are carved for the aesthetic of the ugly, used as cautionary tales for initiates. However, these cases are isolated: western art history approaches have been unable to read the cultural implications of Lega pieces as most of these were removed from their highly-specific context without recording of data concerning their use, name and function. It is thus uncommon to be able to identify sculptures as representing specific people or characters in Lega mythology or history. - (CK.0723)

 

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