Iginga (Human Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The social and spiritual lives of the Lega people, are governed by a central initiation society known as Bwami; Bwami is responsible for teaching morality through community performances, dances and objects. The Bwami association includes 5 society grades including:

  1. Bwali (meaning 'circumcision'; the prerequisite association for joining Bwami where initiates are circumcised (between the ages of 12 and 20) and are thought lessons on the values and behaviours expected to Bwami members);
  2. Kongobulumbu the lowest grade of Bwami followed by a short ceremony where recently circumcised initiates are given even greater knowledge about the association;
  3. Ngandu is the highest grade in some communities (of which bombwa is the female equivalent);
  4. Yananio level consists of two sub-groups, the musagi wa yananio and the lutumbo iwa yananio (bulonda is the female equivalent) and,
  5. Kindi which is the most senior level of Bwami, sub-divided into three grades, kyogo kya kindi, musagi wa kindi and finally lutumbo iwa kindi. Bunyamwa is the equivalent kindi grade for women.

A Lega man must pass through all (voluntary) initiation societies respectively to be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions. The Bwami association is also believed to strengthen bonds within the community.

Each initiation society has its own associated objects and sculptures (isengo, pl. masengo meaning 'heavy things') including the generic iginga human figures (pl. maginga meaning 'objects that sustain the teachings and percepts of Bwami') owned only by lutumbo iwa kindi initiates. The most sort after of all Lega objects, maginga figures are used only during Bwami initiations. "These statues most often were inherited by the initiate from a deceased parent after having been displayed at the grave of the deceased".1

Distinguishing Features

  • Shaved head
  • Heart-shaped face
  • Large forehead
  • Most have cowrie shaped or pierced eyes
  • Straight posture
  • Scarification marks represented on figures with dots or lines
  • Angular legs
  • Standing on wedge-shaped feet
  • Smooth polished surface

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