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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Lega : Lega Wooden Face Mask with Raffia Beard
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Lega Wooden Face Mask with Raffia Beard - PF.3950
Origin: Southeastern Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 11.75" (29.8cm) high x 7.5" (19.1cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood, Paint, Raffia

Additional Information: as

Location: Great Britain
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The Lega tribe lives in the virgin forest of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, between the great lakes and the Lualaba River. Their principle occupations are fishing, hunting and farming. Within each region there are different societies, each with its own members and particular purpose. The Bwami association, for instance, regulated the social and political life of the Lega. It was hierarchical and to pass from one stage to the other, a series of initiations, gifts and payments ordered by the lineage were needed, which showed that and individual had attained a certain wisdom and acquired a personal moral sense.

A mask such as this beautiful example would probably have belonged to the earth clan. Every time the mask was brought out for a ceremony it was painted with white pembe. This celebration was accompanied by dramatic performances of song, dance, and recitations of proverbs. This special mask is not only distinctive in its vibrant white color, but also the lovely heart-shaped face, dots on black covering the head, down the sides and on the chin, along with the richly textured beard.

A very unusual feature of Lega is that they judged the quality of sculpture on the basis of effectiveness as well as aesthetic appearance. In other words, based on how well it communicated ideas important to an association, such as abstract concepts of morality, wisdom etc. With its expressive eyes and delicate mouth, this wonderfully sensitive mask has proven its effectiveness, through sheer power and beauty, traversing oceans, continents, cultures, time and space- transcending the elements to move us with its dignity and quiet strength.
- (PF.3950)


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