The teachings of Bwami permeate all aspects of life, guiding the moral development of the individual and governing relations with others. Bwami doctrine is represented by wood and ivory masks, heads, and small figures, all of which play a vital role during initiation into the society’s highest grades. Although simple in form, these carved objects embody complex and multiple meanings, elaborated through proverbs, skits, and dances. The masks refer to ancestors and are passed from one generation of initiates to the next as symbols of continuity. For the Lega, physical beauty and moral excellence are inseparable. The dotted-circle motifs on many Lega works represent body markings, which enhance both the carvings and the characters they depict. The smooth polished surfaces of these sculptures allude to the refined and perfected nature of the Bwami initiate. This Bwami mask is a finely carved piece with attention to detail where the drawing of the wood is evident. The Kaolin white colour is worn off and carries clear traces of wear and tear. Bwami masks are used by the Lega for initiation rituals and are ranked and the owner of the mask is identified in the society accordingly. In contrast of most African cultures, most of the Lega masks aren’t worn in front of the face but rather attached to the body, worn on the hand or hung on fences during the initiation rituals.
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H41 x B 17 cm
Light brown and white patina