Lega Ceremonial Hat – Bwami Society – D.R.Congo

1960-1970. Tiny glass beads and buttons; vegetal fibers. Cm. 16,5 high; diameter cm. 15,5.

The Lega people are an ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.They originated in what is today Uganda, and started to migrate from there to their present location in the 16th century.

The Lega people traditionally live in small village groups, with no central authority. Within a community, a chief inherits his position on a patrilineal basis, and his close relatives have highest rank. Counterbalancing this hereditary structure, the Bwami society (a semisecret associations of men and women) also regulates social and political life. In 1933 the Belgian authorities banned Bwami, and they prohibited the society again in 1948. The Bwami continued underground and was officially recognized again in 1958.

This society has seven levels for men and four for women and is open to all. An initiate advances through the ranks through a complex system of instruction, payment and initiation, achieving increasing status. A member of the highest level is recognized as a Kindi, a social leader with great moral authority.

The Lega people are polytheistic. Their gods include Kalaga, the promiser; Kenkunga, the reassembler; Ombe, the hidden; Kaginga, the incarnation of evil. Kaginga assists sorcerers, but Bwami membership can protect an individual against the evil doings of witches.

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