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Old 23rd June 2023, 09:04 PM   #1
shayde78
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Default Lega Ivory Figure

So, on a whim, I placed a small bid on an object I thought was carved out of cow/bovine bone. I thought it looked Mesopotamian, but figured it was carved by a hobbyist in modern times.

We've all had moments when we didn't look closely enough at the photos and descriptions of an item and were had our expectations confounded when the item arrives. This is one such example.

It would seem I am now in possession of a hefty Lega figure carved out of ivory. This is no small trinket, and had deep meaning to its original owner.

I found a good resource describing these here https://www.randafricanart.com/Lega_ivory_figures.html

Per this site, "The iginga statues in ivory are the exclusive and individual property of the initiated association bwami ... In the
absence of information collected at the time of the collection with his owner, it unfortunately impossible to identify
his specific meaning and his name. Of more general manner, all initiated lutumbo lwa kindi possesses at least a
statue of this type, obtained at the time of his accession to this very high rank. According to Biebuyck (in Tervuren,
1995: 381), these statues most often were inherited of a deceased parent after having been displayed on his
grave. Each is associated with a specific aphorism. They "recall the virtues of the initiated past generations, they
maintain rules and moral, social, lawful and philosophical norms defended by their predecessors; they are the links
between the past generations and present [and constitute at last] sacra, sacred objects, fill vital force" (idem).
(Sotheby's 2005)"

I'm curious if anyone knows anything further about these figures. I never intended to collect one, but now that I have, I would love to know more.

Thanks everyone!
-Rob
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Old 25th June 2023, 01:18 AM   #2
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I realized I didn't provide any actual specifications on the dimensions.

The figure is about 22cm tall.
It weighs 10.25 ounces (290.58 grams).

And, as one if the photos in the first post shows, it stands freely, which further demonstrates the care with which it was crafted, and the skill involved, especially considering the legs are separate pieces.

If anyone would like additional detail, just let me know.
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Old 25th June 2023, 09:53 PM   #3
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Very nice ivory figurine!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 26th June 2023, 06:59 PM   #4
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It's certainly a very interesting item, but are you sure it is ivory. I don't have it in hand, but i don't see any Schreger Lines which would be present if this was elephant ivory. Doesn't appear to be hippo ivory. I would image those would be the two most common ivory sources for an artifact from this area.
I have read that these figures can be bone sometimes as well as ivory, so it being bone would not make it less authentic. As you have discovered already, these are rather powerful objects for an very elite group of people initiated into secret societies within their tribal structure. If you hold onto this you should keep that in mind. I think it is something you don't have to be particularly superstitious to acknowledge. I do wonder how important objects like this ever end up in auctions.
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Old 27th June 2023, 12:41 AM   #5
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Thank you both for the feedback.

David, I'm quite certain the lines running down the torso are, indeed, Schreger Lines. I'm usually very hesitant to claim the tilt on a knife or sword is ivory. However, this being a solid piece of material, its heft, and its overall appearance makes me more confident in it being ivory than I'm used to being. That said, I would greatly appreciate if you're willing to lend your more experienced judgment if there are additional pictures I can take to aid in your analysis. Simply let me know and I'm happy to upload them.

Again, I truly appreciate the willingness to share your thoughts and impressions.

Thank you,
-Rob
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Old 27th June 2023, 04:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shayde78 View Post
David, I'm quite certain the lines running down the torso are, indeed, Schreger Lines.
Hello Rob,

The lines running down the torso are not Schreger Lines but age cracks but like you I am sure that it's indeed ivory.

Regards,
Detlef
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