The Lega people are found in the Democatic Republic of the Congo. Their society is largely based on a multi leveled system called the bwami association. Open to all, there are different levels for men and women that are ascended through a series of initiations, payments, and instruction. The bwami serves to establish a set of societal morals, norms, and ethical principles. To ascend in level is to achieve a higher moral and societal status.
All Lega art stems from the bwami association in some way. The materials used in Lega art correspond to the level of bwami one is at, wood for the lower levels, ivory for the topmost tier. Many objects represent a certain moral or social value, and while they are stylistically similar, a revered piece of Lega art will be artistically unique.
A typical design for Lega masks can be seen here: a concave, heart shaped face, thin nose and arching eyebrows, slitted eyes, and a slightly open mouth. The circular marks on the cheeks of this mask are a reference to body markings, and add to the beauty of the piece. The white tone on the face of this mask is caused by clay, which is rubbed onto the mask with each use.
The meaning of each mask can be elaborated through song, dance, and proverbs. They are used in initiation rites and are moved frequently for ceremonial displays. For this reason, they are generally small in size.
24" x 7"