Head with stylized body

Lega peoples
19th–20th century
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General Description

Bwami ritual objects include carved wood and ivory human figures with specific names and meanings, which, without field documentation, cannot always be identified with confidence. A qualified, usually male, member of the governing Bwami association commissions an artist to carve a figure but only indicates the gender, pose, and size. The artists does not necessarily know the intended use of the figure so he is free to express himself. The name and meaning of the figure are specified in a ritual of dedication Thereafter, it was kept in a special basket and cleaned and oiled before being displayed to other members. Upon the member's death, figure carvings might be distributed to appropriate Bwami members, assuring the permanent presence of the deceased.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.