EXCELLENT LEGA FIGURE
A Lega Figure with several heads
Wood and feathers, Zaire
High 54 cm
EXCELLENT LEGA FIGURE, this fetish figure was used during initiation ceremonies related to the Bwami secret society. The figure represents the elephant hunter who calls for help on seeing an elephant.
Lega statues employed during initiation ceremonies, had a mnemonic functions. They assisted in the telling of “ancestor stories” or in the depiction of proverbs. For example, a statuette with several heads like our example would be used in ceremonies to evoke the elephant hunter who see the animal in front of him while, at the same time, he calls for help behind him.
* Lega Art
Bwami masks and figures are symbols of the owner’s rank within the Bwami society. The objects represent moral or social values, and are used during initiation rites. The Bwami works of art are often associated with proverbs, and these proverbs in conjunction with dance, poetry and song give wisdom to members of the society. Beauty, knowledge and power are intertwined.
Some artwork can only be seen, handled or owned by the highest grades of the society. The objects are typically small and simple in form, and have a striking patina that derives from being handled or worn on the body. Ivory objects usually have russet or yellow patinas. The masks are fairly standardized, although the most important masks with special ritual use or symbolic meaning may have distinctive design. A typical mask will have a concave heart-shaped face. The forehead protrudes slightly, the nose is narrow, eyes are slits and the mouth is slightly open. Every time a mask is used it is rubbed with white clay, over time acquiring a white patina.