Ivory Maskette, Lega
Lega people, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th century
Height : 17,1 cm
Provenance : Private collection, Bruxelles
Large-scale Lega ivory (Loxodonta Africana) masks are extremely rare and played an essential role within the institution of the Bwami. Called idumu, they were the exclusive property of the highest ranking initiates and were placed under the autoritiy of the community’s elder. They weren’t supposed to be worn but attached on a fence together with small wooden masks.
The present example has remarkably expressive features, with large almond-shaped eyes set slightly at a stant under high eye brow arch heightened with heavy eyelids. The face has a smooth honey patina but still retains marks of the stool used by the carver. The back of the mask has a rough and more primitive aspect, the ivory appears to be almost fossilized in some areas, with remnants of kaolin here and there on both sides.