Bamileke Wum Mask

A wonderful carving of a Bamileke Wum mask, well used and with a lovely smooth dark patina and finish.
Tribe: Bamileke

Origin:¬†Village ‘Wum’ north west region Cameroon

Approx Age: Later 20th Century, 1970s

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 33 long x 28 wide

Ref. Number: 1143

A stunning Wum mask used for royal dances and traditional secret society ceremonies. Wonderful exaggerated facial features with a nice dark finish. The inside of the mask has a good wear patina where the head cloth rubs, and traditional notches made on the rim of the mask, this is for after a ceremony or dance where palm oil and a ‘salt ‘ is rubbed in on the edge of the mask to feed the mask, this is Bamileke tradition.


The Wum are part of a larger cultural area known collectively as the Western Cameroon Grasslands and live in the northern part of Northwest Province. They originally came from an area to the north and migrated in various complex patterns throughout the last several centuries. Fulani traders moving steadily southwards into Cameroon in the 17th century forced the Wum’s southern drift. Many smaller peoples combined, while other factions split away as a result of pressure from the invading Fulani. During the late 18th century many Fulani converted to Islam, and their expansionist efforts grew as a result of religious zeal. They successfully converted many Wum to Islam.

The Wum, like all of the peoples who make up the Cameroon Grasslands culture area, pay allegiance to the Fon. Each village is governed by a leader who is selected by his predecessor and who is usually the head of the dominant lineage within that community. Each Fon is served by a council of elders who advise him on all important decisions and who also play an important role in the selection of the next Fon. Most chiefs serve for a lifetime, abdicating the throne or stool only when nearing death. Complex age-grade societies also help to structure the community. The Fon also oversees these secret societies.

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