Lega Ivory Figure - DC.0727 (LSO)
Circa: 1850 AD to 1920 AD
Dimensions: 4.75" (12.1cm) high
Collection: African Art
Condition: Extra Fine
This well patinated ivory figure was made by a master-carver of the Lega tribe, in what was once Zaire. It portrays a straight-backed male – or perhaps hermaphrodite – figure, with an elongated heart-shaped face, a corpulent body, nugatory arms and solid, thick legs. His face is flat, the features rendered with effective simplicity, as an elongated nose stemming from arched brows, coffee-bean eyes and an incised mouth. The body is comparatively schematic in comparison, with detailing on the nipples, navel and a central groove running down the back. Notable attention has been paid to the rendering of the genitalia, which are somewhat disproportionate to the size of the figure.
The Lega people are amongst Africa’s best-known carvers and artists. Currently settled in the Kivu province of the eastern DRC, they believe themselves to be descended from an eponymous ancestor who migrated into the area from what is now Uganda. They are also known as Warega and Balega, based on corruptions of their actual name by neighbouring groups and Arab traders, respectively. They live in small villages and consider themselves parts of distinct lineages, although to outsiders the “Lega” group is a well-defined unit. They are further defined on the basis of their modes of subsistence. The western Lega settled in the forest (malinga), where they rely on hunting and gathering, while the eastern groups live on poor soils, further denuded by their mode of slash-and-burn agriculture.