White clay forms film residue on this tribal Lega mask with perforations on the forehead. This mask was supposed to indicate the rank to which its holder had accessed in the Bwami, a learning society composed of different ranks. Wives whose spouses had reached the third level, that of the ngandu, were then allowed to participate in the various initiation stages of society. Satin greyish brown patina, clear kaolin residue. High on a base: 43 cm. At the Lea, the Bwami society open to men and women, organized social and political life. There were up to seven levels of initiation, each associated with emblems. Following their exodus from Uganda in the 17th century, the Lega settled on the west bank of the Lualaba River in the DRC. Also known as Warega, these individuals live in self-contained villages surrounded by palisades, usually on the top of hills. The role of the leader, kindi, is held by the oldest man of the clan, who must be the highest ranking. As in other forest tribes, men hunt and clear while women grow cassava. Social recognition and authority also had to be won individually: the chief owed his selection to his heart (mutima), good character, intelligence, and impeccable behavior. During ritual ceremonies, Idumu masks were presented to insiders placed on a fence and surrounded by smaller masks.
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