Bulu Monkey Figure
- Tribe: Bulu / Boulou
- Origin: Gabon & Cameroon
- Approx Age: Late 19th - Early 20th Century
- Materials: Wood & Material
- Dimensions cm: 51 tall x 15 wide
- Ref. Number: 0295
A fantastic old Bulu Monkey Figure is adorable! Its posture suggests it is offering due to being down on one knee, using its tail as support and holding out what it has in its hand. This figure has remains of red pigment on its face, a red piece of material around its neck and material in 3 parts at the base. This has had many tribal repairs to its arms and legs and on its head which indicates it has been a treasured piece in tribal use. The base on which it stands is very decayed through age and the wood when tapped on its body sounds hollow of very aged wood. This has been vetted as authentic and estimated age at late 19th – early 20th Century.
Gorillas in culture
Gorilla Journal 18, June 1999
Gorillas in African Culture and Medicine
The Bulu occupying the borders region between Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, they are part of the Fang group with whom they share cultural similarities.
From 1880-1910 the Bulu, like the Fang practiced an ngi ritual against sorcery, in particular against poisonings.
The “ngi” is the gorilla a fearful animal, with which the candidate identifies after he has been accepted into the association.
Fewer than ten monkey statues are existing that we know of.
The inventiveness of their round, simple forms is striking and the artists have captured with great precision the animal’s posture.
L. Perrois, La Sculpture Traditionanelle du Gabon. (1973) A.R.Walker and
R. Sillans, Rites et Croyances des Peuples du Gabon’s (1962)
Paul Du Chaillu already wrote in 1891 about gorilla stories he had heard from the Fang and Bulu people.
For example, the Fang were convinced that if a pregnant woman or her husband were to see a gorilla, even a dead one, she would give birth to a gorilla, rather than to a human child.
It is very difficult to find published information on this subject, as little has been written since about the importance of gorillas for African peoples.
One exception is Gunter Tessmapn’s study of the Pangwe (Cameroon and Gabon) published in 1913.
It contains a detailed description of a secret society whose cult centres around the gorilla.
It was widely spread and called Ngi or Ngui among the Fang and Nji among the Bulu. Ngi means gorilla and is the symbol of fire and positive power (the chimpanzee represents evil).
During the Ngi celebration, a large sculpture was made after the vigorous dance of a healer.
Certain objects were placed in and around that sculpture, for example, parts of dead people (but not gorillas), and rituals were performed.
For the members of the Ngi secret society, Ngi was watching their manners.
He punished them with illness, for example with leprosy, if they broke the rules. Ngi also protected the society members as he rose at night to fight sorcerers who had left their bodies to kill people.
According to Jordi Sabater Pi, the Ngi cult has disappeared completely.
However, Klaus Paysan heard from a chief’s son in Cameroon, far away from the present gorilla distribution area, that the Ngi society was still active, but all information was kept absolutely secret.
Bulu, also spelled Boulou, one of a number of related peoples inhabiting the hilly, forested, south-central area of Cameroon as well as mainland Equatorial Guinea and northern Gabon. These peoples are collectively called the Fang. “Bulu” is a loosely defined term that designates one of the three major subdivisions of the Fang. The Bulu constitute about one-third of the Fang living in Cameroon.
The origins of the Bulu are not clear; they may have moved southward with other Fang peoples from what is now southeastern Chad because of pressure from the expansionist Fulani to the north. They were also attracted by the opportunities for trade with European colonists to the south. The southward migration of the Bulu toward the sea was halted by German colonial forces in the late 19th century, and their thrust into what is now northern Gabon was stopped by the French at about the same time.
The Bulu live in a region of equatorial forest. They grow crops of cassava and corn (maize) and supplement these with a wide variety of vegetable leaves, plantains, palm oil (and palm wine), and wild mushrooms, insects, and other gathered products. Hunting has also been a very significant pursuit among the Bulu. The Bulu live in the best cacao-producing area of Cameroon, and their income from this crop is substantial.
The Bulu’s clans are determined through patrilineal descent, and religious societies and age grades provide social cohesion and identity beyond the village. In late colonial years, the Bulu founded a formal tribal union with all clans represented and efforts coordinated for social welfare. American Protestant missionaries have had a great influence, and Bulu sculpture and other arts have been redirected from religious purposes to a flourishing tourist market. Both the profits from cacao and the schools established by early missionaries have meant that the Bulu have long participated actively in the economic, political, and intellectual growth of Cameroon.