Bamum Tu Ngünga Mask
Tu Ngünga headdresses are worn only by those who belong to a secret Bamum society of warriors, known as the Nsoro
Origin: Chiefdom of njibam, Cameroon
Approx Age: 1950-60
Materials: Wood, cane, raffia
Dimensions cm: 52 tall x 26 wide x 30 depth, not including adornments
Ref. Number: 1771
An absolutely stunning Bamum TuNgünga mask headdress, fantastically carved with great charisma. Wooden carved face with bulbous eyes, great arched eyebrows and with the royal iconography of an animal to the very top, most possibly a lizard? fixed with a cane work-frame adorned with raffia and other interesting pieces.
Provenance: Previously owned by Momafon Nji Ndam Idrissou, chief of Njibam chiefdom, 2nd-degree chiefdom in the Bamoun Kingdom.
Tu Ngünga masks/ headdresses are worn only by those who belong to a secret Bamum society of warriors, known as the Nsoro, who perform at the funerals of important members of the community. The masks impress with their size and grandeur and elicit fear and apprehension since they represent the society charged with adjudicating disputes and protecting the king.
Among the many kingdoms (fondom) of the Cameroon Grassfields, the central fon (chief) and a number of secret societies are responsible for the social rule of each kingdom. The Nsorro military society consists of male members that have killed an enemy of the Bamum fon during a battle and as such are recognised for their bravery and allegiance to the fondom.
This special society makes use of the tu ngünga (also called tugunga or tungunga, meaning ‘head for the dance’; tu meaning ‘head’, ngunga meaning ‘dance’) headdress during the funerals of deceased Nsorro members, fons and other members of royalty. The headdresses are recently also danced during community festivals and annual nja harvest celebrations. Used to invoke images of deceased fons and their wives, tu ngünga masquerades always dance in male / female pairs with the male headdress represented wearing a Bamum prestige cap and the female headdress represented with an elegant female coiffure.
References: Brooklyn Museum and IMO DARA. By: Adenike Cosgrove
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