Bwami is a central initiation society that governs the lives of the Lega people. Bwami is believed to strengthen the bonds of community by ways of teaching morality through performances, dances, and objects. The Bwami association includes five society grades, which include:
In order to be considered someone with full insight into ancestral teachings, a Lega man must pass all voluntary initiation societies. However, not all members reach the highest grades of Bwami. The few who do enter the moral and philosophical elite, however, are entitled to certain emblems defining their status. These emblems include carved wood or ivory sculptures that employ proverbs or aphorisms about moral perfection.
Each initiation society has its own associated objects and sculptures that a teacher uses in initiation to communicate different lessons and values through layered metaphors. Only rarely and primarily in the higher-level initiations is a single meaning communicated through an object. This is exemplified by the multiheaded figure called sakimatwematwe, which means “many heads.” This figure illustrates the proverb, “Many heads have seen an elephant on the other side of the large river.” The saying communicates an ability high-level Bwami members should possess as a result of the initiation process: to see in many different directions and to be wise and fair-minded.
Sakimatwematwe is a symbol of the wisdom, discernment, and fairness of the Kindi, one of the highest grades in Bwami. The multi-headed figure also speaks to the inability of anyone to act alone. In order to move up in Bwami, a man needs the support of others. This idea suggests that completeness and accomplishment only follow when the connection one has to others are honoured and utilised.