Bamun mask from the Grasslands


Q:  Can you help me identify this wood carved mask. The mask is about 13-1/2” at the widest part and 19” in height from chin to top of head.  My uncle purchased it from an artist in Honolulu in 1990.  Ben, 1416

A:  The masks comes from an important area that has distinctive masks and other folk art. The Grasslands of Cameroon are composed of three ethnic groups with ancestors in common. There are the one million Bamileke spread over the southwestern plateaus, in communities that have from 50,000 to 100,000 people; the 500,000 Bamenda-Tikar in the north; and, finally, the Bamum in the northwest, with a population of 80,000. The artistic production of the people living in the Grassland of Cameroon is closely associated with royal and societal ceremonies.

But like so many areas of Africa, traditional carved-wood masks are made by the Bamun in large quantities for sale to tourists and exporters. This mask is stylistically correct and should be collectible for people with modest budgets.  B


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