TITLE: Lega Idimu Mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Democratic Republic of
DESCRIPTION: Idimu Mask
CEREMONY: Bwami Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Secret Society; Status
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay
The Lega people of the Democratic Republic of Congo use masks in a very wide variety of ways, but primarily for initiation into adulthood and to confirm status. The Bwami Society exercises authority over many aspects of social and religious life, including initiation. All Lega masks are therefore Bwami Society masks. Small masks (lukwakongo) are used for identification and worn on the body or are hung on a fence to represent children of the ancestors. Larger masks, such as this idimu (ancestor) mask, are worn on the face or back of the head, and can only be worn by men belonging to the two highest ranks of the Bwami Society (Yananio and Kindi).
For more on Lega masking traditions, see Daniel Biebuyck, Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy among a Central African People (University of California Press, 1973).