Spike / Peg Figure


19th cent.
11 cm


Formerly in Umberto Giacomelli’s collection, Italy. Received as a gift from His Eimnence A.Tamba, order of the Saveriani missionary, in a Kivu village in Lega territory circa 1970

Anna Demina Collection, Milan


The Lega ethnic group is located in the forested are of the Kivu river region of the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo.
The society is organized around the hierarchical brotherhood of the Bwami whose objective aim to inculcate the initiate the "wisdom and moral perfection". The function of the Bwami is thus at once political, social, religious and artistic.
The initiatic objects contain an intrinsic and sacred power and are part of the masengo, the "heavy things", objects carrying a powerful charge. The object is thus imbued with a particular meaning and called kubonga. Their functions are thus apotropaic, medicinal and protective. The objects specifically carved for the Bwami belong to the category of masengo called binkungango and are the privileged possessions of particular personalities of the Bwami association.
Among these, the private objects kept secret from the public are called bitungwa, and the ivory objects especially are called maginga and belong to the highest ranking initiates, as ivory is the highest ranking material used.
This particular figure is called “spike figure” or “peg figure” and is a symbol of cross- generational continuity.
The figure is made of a torso with small arms and a heart shaped slightly concave angular face. It presents a small slit mouth and a rectangular nose framed by two large hollowed eyes.
The statuettes were rubbed in oil oftenly mixed with red powder, polished with lukengo leaves and perfumed, wich gives it this beautiful nuanced patina that testifies of its prolonged use and repeated treatment with ointments.