Bamileke AKA Society Elephant Mask
Beadwork is an essential element of Bamileke art and what distinguishes them from other regions of Africa.
Origin: Fondong Chiefdom, Dschang
Approx Age: 1960’s
Materials: Cloth, cowrie shells, beads
Dimensions cm: 55 x 35
Ref. Number: 1761
A lovely beaded Bamileke AKA society elephant mask from the region of Dschang of West Cameroon. This style of elephant mask is from the AKA society. This is an exquisite example of Bamileke beadwork and stylisation.
Provenance: Collected personally from the Fondong chiefdom in the 1970s by Abdoulai Gbetnkom.
The power of a Bamileke king, called a Fon, is often represented by the elephant, buffalo and leopard, as a totem. Oral traditions proclaim that the Fon may transform into either an elephant or leopard whenever he chooses. An elephant mask called a mbap mteng has protruding circular ears, a human-like face, and decorative panels on the front and back that hang down to the knees and are covered overall in beautiful geometric beadwork, including much triangular imagery. Isosceles triangles are prevalent as they are the known symbol of the leopard. Beadwork, shells, bronze and other precious embellishments on masks elevate the mask’s status. On occasion, a Fon may permit members of the community to perform an elephant mask along with a leopard skin, indicating a statement of wealth, status and power being associated with this masquerade.
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