African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Lega (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Wood with a clear, natural coating, kaolin and beard of vegetable fibres
H 23 cm
Mask from the Bwame group.
A sculpture of average dimensions that belongs to the classic designs of the Lega tradition. It has a concave, heart-shaped face, carved in the oval space in the head. The eyes are narrow, and the root of the nose combines with the perfect arches of the eyebrows. It has a long beard made of lukusa fibres.


€ 6.000 - 8.000

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- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);


Reproduced in:
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 52;

- FAGG WILLIAM "Masques d'Afrique dans les Collections du Musée Barbier-Muller" Geneva 1980, Pages 150 and 151;
- FELIX MARK LEO “100 Peoples of Zaire and their sculpture: Lega, pages 70 and 71” Brussels 1987;
- 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;

These white masks were associated with the memory of ancestors and founding members of the clan. They appeared in young people’s initiation rituals regardless of the social rank to which they pertained. Each family clan put a large mask like this on display outside their houses during important ceremonies, as it represented Mother Nature with all her children around her. It was tied to a wooden structure, a sort of balustrade with small steps, in such a manner so as to make it visible for all and sundry to see during rites of passage. Alongside it, small wooden and ivory masks – very common in this group - were also hung. This entire representation became the spiritual link between the various members of each family and their ancestors.


African Art

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