Cover image for Art of the Lega
Art of the Lega
Cameron, Elisabeth Lynn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Los Angeles : UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History ; Seattle : Distributed by the University of Washington Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
231 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 32 cm
General Note:
Based on an exhibition held at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT650.R43 C35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

On Order



Drawing upon diverse sources, including Daniel P. Biebuyck's seminal fieldwork of the 1950s, Elisabeth Cameron investigates the culture and the art of the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among the Lega, art is only created for and used by the Bwami Society. Bwami is a complex organization consisting of multiple levels, and it forms an essential component of the political, social, and religious structure of the Lega.

Within Bwami, artworks are used in conjunction with proverbs, anecdotes, and performances to form complex layered metaphors and to serve as mnemonic devices. As initiates move up through the ranks of the Bwami Society, a variety of different artworks assist them in recalling a vast corpus of complex aphorisms. The many beautiful examples of Lega artworks illustrated in this volume are drawn primarily from the Jay T. Last collection and include masks, animals, human forms, miniature tools, and spoons.

Author Notes

Elisabeth L. Camerion is an assistant professor of art history at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cameron (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri) offers a catalog of the Jay Last collection of Lega art, a promised gift to the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA. This is the first major publication on the art of this important Central African people since the seminal Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy among a Central African People, by Daniel Biebuyck (1973). Most of the objects illustrated in the catalog come from the Last collection, but several important objects are from the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, or from other important public collections. The 1973 book has always been considered one of the most important sources on African art in social context. This new catalog significantly updates the earlier book, and provides abundant high-quality color illustrations of objects and excellent black-and-white photos of art being used in the context of the Bwami society, for which they were created. The 1973 book was very informative, but given its layout and design important material was often difficult to find. The current book is vastly more concise, and in many ways is more clearly written and more useful. Excellent bibliography; appendix with provenance of objects in the collection; many, many high-quality color photographs. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. C. D. Roy University of Iowa