This Lukwakongo mask, small in size, depicts an idealised Lega man with a 'beard' of bird feathers. In the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo art is created primarily for semi-secret associations of men and women, such as the Bwami society of the Lega peoples. 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.
Lega masks are all Bwami initiation objects and are divided up into five sub-types according to material, size, and form, of which the lukwakongo is one. The lukwakongo mask is the most important sign of rank until the owner moves to Kindi, and the wooden mask is then traded for an ivory one. The man's wife would keep his lukwakongo mask in in a "bwami basket" hidden in the house.
In Bwami ceremonies, masks would be attached to different parts of the bodies, hung on fences, piled in stacks, displayed, dragged on the ground and occasionally worn on the forehead with the raffia beard draping over the face of the wearer.
Ex Private Collection, Spain
Fashor and Eagor, 'Lukwakongo Mask', https://www.artworkarchive.com/profile/fashor-and-eagar/artwork/lukwakongo-mask-fashor-and-eagar
Art Institute of Chicago, 'Face Mask (Idimu)' https://www.artic.edu/artworks/120322/face-mask-idimu