Bamileke Royal Ceremonial Palm Wine Vessel
These containers were used exclusively by the Fon (chief) to store palm wine served on ceremonial occasions.
Origin: Grasslands Cameroon
Approx Age: 1950-60
Materials: Gourd, wood, Ndop cloth, beads, cowries
Dimensions cm: 1140 tall
Ref. Number: knpc AAG
An exquisite Bamileke royal ceremonial palm wine vessel, this piece features a long-necked calabash topped with a beautifully carved animal wood stopper. The entire assemblage is covered with cloth embroidered with strands of translucent and opaque red and blue glass beads that form an intricate pattern. Of the many ritual items in a Grassfields kingdom’s royal treasury, bead-embroidered calabashes are among the most important.
There are only a few beads missing to the rear yet the neck has been repaired (tribally) as it had been broken in the past, yet it is all in one piece.
These containers were used exclusively by the Fon (chief) to store palm wine served on ceremonial occasions. The ritual consumption of palm wine was considered a sacred activity and reinforced the Fon’s spiritual and political power. Palm wine was also an essential component of sacrificial libations to the ancestors.
Rulers throughout the many Kingdoms in the Cameroon Grassland region (Bamileke –Bamum -Tikar) employed a range of Regalia to assert their political, economic and religious power. Presented publicly in lavish displays of wealth and power, many court objects were distinguished by their elaborate bead embroidery. Imported from Venice, Bohemia or Amsterdam, glass beads were considered a luxury material whose use and distribution was controlled by the King. The decoration of objects with vast quantities of brilliantly coloured beads transformed utilitarian objects into symbols of royal status and prestige.
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