This figure belongs to a group of bead-covered figures representing the Kom royal family and their servants. The ensemble was probably carved during the latter part of the reign of Foyn Yu who ruled from ca. 1865 to 1912. The Michael C. Carlos Museum's bowl figure was collected in the late 1950s by Gilbert Schneider, a member of the American Baptist Missionary Society. Schneider received it from Foyn Law-aw as partial payment after he procured a new tin roof for the palace. Schneider also collected two other bowl figures. They are in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum and the Indiana University Art Museum.

The bowl figure represents a chisendo, an elite attendant in the service of the king, or fon. It is both a functional object and a symbol of kingly status. During court ceremonies, bowl figures were placed beside the fon and filled with kola nuts or flasks of palm wine, two essential ingredients offered to royal guests as gestures of hospitality. The bowl figure also represents concepts of support and status. For example, it embodies a supportive role because it holds and offers a vessel. Although represented seated (an indication of authority), the figure's legs are rendered as structural elements of the stool, reaffirming the concept of support for the king. Befitting a high-ranking court official is the face, a study of calm composure, and accoutrements of prestige, the multilobed cap and white beads representing ivory bracelets and anklets.

The beads covering this sculpture were manufactured in Europe, either Venice or Bohemia, and imported into the Grassfields region of Cameroon. A linen-like fabric was stretched taut over the figure; beads were then strung on thread and sewn in rows onto the cloth.


  • Title: Beaded Bowl Figure
  • Location: Laikom, Cameroon
  • Physical Dimensions: 27 13/16 x 13 7/8 x 12 in. (70.6 x 35.3 x 30.5 cm)
  • Provenance: Acquired by Gilbert Schneider, missionary with the American Baptist Mission, as a gift from the Kom king Fon Law-aw, Cameroon, 1958 - 1966. Ex private collection, Athens, Georgia, until early 1980s. Ex coll. William S. Arnett, United States.
  • Subject Keywords: Ceremonial container, effigy, sculpture
  • Rights: © Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White
  • External Link: https://collections.carlos.emory.edu/objects/19777/
  • Medium: Wood, fiber, beads, metal
  • Art Movement: Kom, Tikar
  • Dates: late 19th-early 20th Century
  • Classification: African Art

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