Object of the day: a Lega mask without eyes

Image courtesy Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA (#X2007.21.63).

Image courtesy Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA (#X2007.21.63).

One of my favourite Congolese masks, formerly in the collection of Jay T. Last and currently held by the Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles. A very rare idumu mask without eyes. We can only guess about its meaning, but its beauty is on a transcendent level. In Art of the Lega (Los Angeles, 2001), Elisabeth Cameron wrote (p. 209):

It has been suggested that Bwami members attached cowrie shells to serve as eyes, but this seems unlikely since the kaolin on these examples is even, showing no scars to indicate missing elements. Perhaps, instead, the masks illustrate the saying “Big-One of the men’s house, the guardian, has no eyes” (Biebuyck, 1986: p. 77). Although this important high-level Bwami member does not see with his eyes, he sees with his heart and guards the affairs of the community.