This small rare ivory mask, with Its typical coffee-bean shaped eyes and a long, raffia fibre beard, would have belonged to the highest category within the hierarchy of Lega Bwami Society objects. The mask has a lovely golden honey patina and is decorated with a series of circle and dot designs on its forehead and one on either cheek.
One of the interesting aspects about this mask is the patina and contracting colours on the back of the mask. From close examination one can see that over time the mask has been applied with oils, which is typical with this type of Lukungu mask. The oil has penetrated the inner core of the ivory creating a darkened central section. This darkening definition could over be achieved over a long period of time as the piece was being traditionally used, oiled and handled.
Objects owned and used during initiations into the different levels of the Bwami Society were distinguished by material and size, in which individually-owned small, ivory masks (lukungu) marked the rank of Lutumbo Iwa Kindi. This mask would not have been worn on the face or body of the owner, but rather, would have been brought out only during Kindi initiations. During these occasions, lukungu masks such as this would have been displayed on a fence or in front of their seated (male) owners.
Ex Private Collection, London
Estimated Period: First Half of 20th Century
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Mask (Bwami, Lukungu)'
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