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African Lega mask with sparkles

Q:  I found this mask in Tanzania and I have not seen anything like it before. The seller claimed it was a mask used in moon ceremonies. The raffia is not original. It is a thin mask so I could not really get a side photo. The white portion is sunk in though. It is also very light in weight. One of the unique aspects of the mask is that the holes down the nose and across the brow have a metallic luster.

The sheen appears to be some light colored impurities (sand? clay?) that have settled or been placed into these darkened grooves. There are also reflective small sparkles randomly dispersed in the light area of the mask.  Don, 1125
A:  Lega masks are used as initiation objects in the Bwami society. They serve as an important mark of rank, identifying the owners as members of specific Bwami levels. Unlike many masks in other African cultures, the masks of the Lega are not usually worn over the face, they are attached to the body, held in the hand or simply hung on fences during the initiation ceremonies. (Rand African Art) 
The Lega are a large ethnic group in the Western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This piece is very typical of the tribe, except for the glittery stuff. Nicely carved. B-

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Categories:   Africa

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