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With the exhibition Secrets of Ivory, The art of the Lega of Central Africa, the musée du quai Branly presents the masterpieces of Lega art, one of the most important artistic traditions of central Africa, preserved in the Jay T. Last collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles.
Art plays a fundamental role for the Lega of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both as a symbol of success, an educational tool and in the commemoration of the dead.
These works, linked to the Bwami initiation society, are used to teach lessons of morals and ethics. In the same way as language or bodily expression (mime and dance), the ideas conveyed by art express the values and ideals of Lega society.
Lega works, such as hats of mussel shells, leopard tooth necklaces, ivory spoons, cowrie shell belts, masks and figures sculpted in wood or ivory, are impressive in their inventiveness and elegance. However, their simplified forms and astonishingly innovative abstract volumes respect the aesthetic codes of the Lega, associating beauty and moral virtue.