Art/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

Mask (Bwami, Lukungu)

Date:
19th–20th century
Geography:
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Shabundu region
Culture:
Lega peoples
Medium:
Ivory
Dimensions:
H. 8 1/2 x W. 4 13/16 x D. 2 3/4 in. (21.6 x 12.3 x 7 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.277
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
In the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo art is created primarily for semisecret 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. 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.
[Collected by Jacques Hautelet (Brussels, Belgium and La Jolla, Calif.) in 1955 in the region of Shabundu]; [Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1965–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 448.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 66 upper right.



Related Objects

Figure: Male (Bwami)

Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1978.412.550 On view in:Gallery 352

Head (Bwami)

Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1979.206.207 On view in:Gallery 352

Ceremonial Spoon (Bwami)

Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1978.412.704 On view in:Gallery 352

Female Mask (Gambanda)

Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Wood, fiber Accession: 2011.11.8 On view in:Gallery 352

Mask (Kifwebe)

Date: 19th–mid-20th century Medium: Wood, pigment Accession: 1979.206.5 On view in:Gallery 352