Item: Lengola Face Mask Specifications: 32.5 x 22.5 x 16.5 cm Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo (see ethnographical notes below) Medium: Timber Carving & pigment. Provenance: Arthur Rudner Collection, Cape Town (1950's) then Michel Fachau 'Profiles of Africa Collection, Cape Town then Private Collection, Melbourne. Condition: Fine deep patina, no restoration.
The Metoko and Lengola people live on the left bank of the Zaire River in an area that is densely wooded. They are heavily influenced in their art and secret societies by their larger populated neighbors the Lega.
Figures among the Metoko are defined by their highly abstracted forms that are further defined by a series of dotted forms or incised lines on the upper parts of their bodies. Figures among the Lengola are often put together, carpentered as it were rather than carved as in this example where the arms are pegged into the body and then attached with local glue. Figures like this finely carved example are used by a semi-secret society known as Bukota to which both men and women belong similar to the Bwami society among the Lega. Though not specifically assigned a particular purpose Metoko figures appear at funerals, initiations of members of the Bukota society and at the time of punishment of malefactors and witches. Figures are generally in the possession of the most senior members of the Bukota society and will be identified with names associated with positive behavior.