Bamileke Royal Gong
Origin: Grasslands Cameroon
Approx Age: Early 20th Century
Materials: Iron, animal hide, cowries, cloth
Dimensions cm: 64 tall x 23 wide
Ref. Number: knpc aag
A very old Bamileke royal gong or bell, or cloche more know to the Bamileke people. This ceremonial gong features an animal with a cowrie shell adornment topping an animal hide handle with cowries at its base. These gongs are usually sat with the chief with other pieces such as large statues and beaded palm wine vessels. The tops of these gongs are sometimes beaded, different from village to village. This is very aged and worn.
The Bamileke are organized under several chiefdoms (or fondom). Of these, the Fondoms of Bafang, Bafoussam, Bandjoun, Baham, Bangangté, Bawaju, Dschang and Mbouda are the most prominent. The Bamileke also share much history and culture with the neighbouring fondoms of the Northwest region and notably the Lebialem region of the Southwest region, but the groups have been divided since their territories were split between the French and English in colonial times.
The Bamileke, whose origins trace to Egypt, migrated to what is now northern Cameroon between the 11th and 14th centuries. In the 17th century, they migrated further south and west to avoid being forced to convert to Islam. Today, a majority of peoples within this people cluster are Christians. The Bamileke are the native people of three regions of Cameroon, namely West, North-West and South-West. Though the greater part of this people are from the West region, it is estimated that almost half of Bamileke are from the English speaking regions, the majority of which are from the North-West region (there are 123 Bamileke groupings in this region, against 6 in the South-West and 106 in the Western region). The Grassfields area therefore encompasses the West and North-West and a small part of the South-West region of Cameroon. Apart from the Bamileke, there are other tribes that are historically more or less linked to the Bamileke, whether by blood or through certain cultural intercourse (Dieudonné Toukam, “Histoire et anthropologie du peuple bamiléké”, 2016), as well as recently settled foreigners (Fulani, Haoussa, Igbo, etc.)
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