Peoples & Societies


The Lega, a Bantu-speaking cluster of farmers who also pan for gold, inhabit the east-central area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Lega, who now number around 400,000, immigrated to this area from Uganda in the 17th century. The Lega do not have a centralized political system; instead they vest leadership and governance in Bwami, an age-graded association open to both men and women. Its members aspire to achieve moral perfection—moderation, nonviolence, kinship, respect, constraint, and moral as well as physical beauty. Bwami is also the major channel for prestige and the driving force for the visual and performing arts. Lega artists work ivory, wood, and bone to create masks and figures that symbolize moral principles. Bwami teaches life lessons through special sculptures, found objects, and the proverbs and dances associated with them. While every Lega person belongs to Bwami, only a few men can achieve the highest grade or kindi.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 303.
  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Web Resources