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Wooden mask

1900/1950

British Museum

British Museum

Masks of this type are to be worn on top of the head and are usually carved for kings, whom they are thought to represent. The swollen features symbolize the monarch's well-nourished state.The central and western region of Cameroon is divided into many separate kingdoms. Secular and supernatural power is invested in the kings who, it is believed, are able to change into powerful animals, usually elephants, buffaloes or leopards.The king presides over an elaborate hierarchy of titled nobles and secret societies who protect and advise him, as well as providing administrative, social and economic control of his kingdom. There are three main societies: Kwifon, who check royal decisions, ensuring that the king is not an absolute ruler; Nggiri, who are advisers, and Manjong, the military section which was historically responsible for warfare and hunting, but now oversees community activities.

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  • Title: Wooden mask
  • Date Created: 1900/1950
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 85.00cm; Width: 53.00cm; Depth: 21.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Subject: king/queen
  • Registration number: Af1943,06.1
  • Production place: Made in Cameroon
  • Place: Found/Acquired Cameroon
  • Peoples: Made by Bamum. Made by Bamileke
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Burney, Sydney Bernard. Purchased through Art Fund

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