Bamileke Wum Helmet Mask

The Bamileke Wum helmet mask is worn on top of the head with a hood covering the face but clear enough for the dancer to see.

Tribe: Bamileke

Origin: Babanki, Grasslands Cameroon

Approx Age: 2nd half 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 32 tall x 26 wide x 26 depth

Ref. Number: 1374


A very expressive Bamileke Wum helmet mask from Babanki, a shiny wear patina, a sergeant style stripe on the coiffure before the open square chamber cut out which follows through to the hollowed out inside of the helmet, the curve lines on this piece are wonderful and lovely prominent features. The inside of the helmet has old signs of insects being present, very good condition overall with beautiful Babanki styling.


Wum’ helmet masks are actually worn on the top of the forehead on top of a woven cloth material like a balaclava so the dancer can see through without having his identity taken, this can be seen in the photo opposite. The Wum is used mostly at a traditional dance celebration known as “Lali”.

The power of the sculpture is accentuated by the thick dark patina, crusty, shiny on the projecting parts. In the great tradition of Northwestern styles, ancient Wum masks are rare. Within their narrow typology, they stand out in particular by their expressionist vein, carried with remarkable freedom and talent by the master-sculptors of the Federation of Aghem, better known under the German designation of Wum.These masks, which are dance during celebration and funeral ceremonies, are not meant as representations of ancestors or spirits. Masks were created by the ancestors for the protection and benefit of men—masks are just masks.


A mask society waiting for its dance during a death ceremony in Mboh Oku, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.


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