Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bwami Figure: Female

Date:
19th–20th century
Geography:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Culture:
Lega peoples
Medium:
Ivory, pigment
Dimensions:
H. 4 11/16 x W. 1 1/2 x D. 1 in. (12 x 3.8 x 2.5 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.283
Not on view
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. For the Lega, physical beauty and moral excellence are inseparable. The smooth polished surfaces of these sculptures allude to the refined and perfected nature of the Bwami initiate.
[Merton D. Simpson, New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

Cameron, Elisabeth L. Art of the Lega. Los Angeles and Seattle: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2001.



Related Objects

Figure: Male (Bwami)

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

Mask (Bwami, Lukungu)

Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1979.206.277 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

Power Figure: Male (Nkisi)

Date: 19th–mid-20th century Medium: Wood, pigment, nails, cloth, beads, shells, arrows, leather, nuts, twine Accession: 1979.206.127 On view in:Gallery 352