Lot: 270

Rare mask type "muminia" (in shape of a monkey), 19th century

D. R. Congo, Lega

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Jay C. Leff (1925-2000), Uniontown, Pennsylvania (1975)
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 14 May 1981, lot 69
H: 9.1 inch 25000 EUR / 50000 EUR

wood, encrusted patina, pigments, base Lega masks fall into the category of "bwami" initiation objects. The Lega divide them into five types: "lukwakongo", "kayamba", "idimu", "muminia" and "lukungu". They serve as an important mark of rank, identifying the owners as members of specific "bwami" levels. Comprising five levels for men and three for women, "Bwami" is a voluntary association open to all Lega and its influence is meant to encompass the breadth of a person’s life. Most men and women enter the beginning levels of "bwami", but few reach the highest rank, known as "kindi". According to Biebuyck, masks of the "muminia" type are quite rare. In general, "muminia" represents the wise initiate, a person of descretion and equanimity, in opposition to the neophyte who is still unstabe and impetuous. In different aphorisms the mask is referred to as "mbezi" (a monkey species). In the "kilinkumbi" rite of "kindi", a large wooden mask "muminia" is hung on a fence amidst a number of ivory maskettes. In this instance it represents the Mothermask. Every participating "kindi" has placed his mask on the fence around the large wooden mask that symbolized the unity of the groups participating in this rite.


Cameron, Elisabeth L., Art of the Lega, Los Angeles 2001, p. 195
"African Sculpture from the Collection of Jay C.Leff", The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964, #114; Jack D. Flam, African Art from the Jay C.Leff Collection", Florida, 1967; "The Art of Black Africa: Collection of Jay C. Leff", Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh,1969, #307
Exhibited:

New York, The Museum of Primitive Art: "African Sculpture from the Collection of Jay C.Leff”, 25 November 1964-7 February 1965; Gainesville, University of Florida, University Gallery: "African Tribal Art from the Jay C.Leff Collection", 5-26 March, 1967; Tampas, University of South Florida, Division of Fine Arts: "African Tribal Art from the Jay C.Leff Collection",11 April-10 May, 1967, no.61; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, "The Art of Black Africa, Collection of Jay C.Leff", 24 October 1969-18 January 1970