African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Lega, Shabunda region (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Lightwood covered in kaolin, tassel of woven vegetable fibres (Lukusa)
H 13 cm

Lukwakongo miniature mask.
This mask’s style confirms the tradition of the Lega art: an oval-shaped face with a concave face, in contrast to the convex surface into which it is engraved. The eyes are narrow slits in emphasis, the protruding nose divides the facial area in two, and the mouth shows rows of sharp teeth. Around the face, a long tassel of woven fibres is tied.


€ 8.000 - 10.000

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- George F. Keller antique collection (Bern) (Inv. G.F.K. 312);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- Berna 1980, Musée des Beaux Arts;
- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);


Reproduced in:
- MORIGI PAOLO “Raccolta di un amatore d’arte primitiva” Magliaso, Lugano & Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland 1980, fig. 313, page 360;
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 51;

- FELIX MARK LEO “100 Peoples of Zaire and their sculpture: Lega, pages 70 and 71” Brussels 1987
- FELIX MARC LEO & AUTORI VARI “Congo Masks – Masterpieces from Central Africa” Brussels 2018, Edited by Marc Leo Felix, pages 266 - 274;
- VARIOUS AUTHORS “Face of the Spirits: Masks from the Zaire Basin” Antwerp 1993, pages 188 - 197;
- CORNET JOSEPH “Art de l’Afrique noire au pays de fleuve Zaire” Brussels 1972, pages 257 - 283;
- CAMERON ELISABETH L. “Art of the Lega” UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, 2001;

The Lega, or Rega / Warega as they were called in the past, are made up of around 200,000 native people in the Congo who live in the equatorial forest in the region of Maniema and around the slopes of the western Tanganica lake. Their society, in the past, was organised with a complex institution called Bwame. Divided into several levels, it had the job of organising the community’s social, political, judicial and religious life. Passage from one level to another was obtained after having proven one’s personal abilities in several of life’s activities: raising one’s children properly, capturing large animals on collective hunting trips and behaving heroically in tribal battles etc.Both the masks and the sculptures made in wood, bone and ivory represented an identifying mark of the level of hierarchy the owner had reached.Ivory was the material for the highest rank. These objects, once acquired, were kept in wicker baskets and handed down to descendants with pride. During the village’s festivities, they were shown off to the public, and hung on improvised wooden perches in front of their own homes.


African Art

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