Bangwa Dog Figure
The Kungan is a secret society of the Bangwa community.
Origin: Grassfields Cameroon
Approx Age: 2nd half 20th Century
Dimensions cm: 52 long x 26 tall
Ref. Number: 1763
Bangwa dog figure from the Kungan society, the mythical dog is known as “Mevou” it is a totem for the Kungan which is a secret society of the Bangwa community. Carried by his tail and danced with as well as danced around. Encrusted patina, on its back, is a cavity for a “magic potion” to power up the figure/statue during the ceremony, this substance is also used for the “Mupo” figures.
Kungan or Ku’ngang ceremonial masks are one of the most dangerous and ferocious masks of the Bamileke, just used on occasion of big festivities. During the performance, the mask would be fixed by ropes and sprinkled with water in order to calm its aggressiveness. “Kungan” is a kind of religious society but very secret, it is led by nine priests and is responsible for healing and truth-telling.
The Night society plays an important part in the rites and celebrations of the Bangwa people, Its members are the Bangwa kingmakers. It is to them that the chief confides the name of his successor on his death-bed. They protect the palace during the often turbulent interregnum and present the successor to the people during the late chief’s funeral celebrations. The Night society has sections. The lowest group consists of palace retainers; they perform executive functions such as collecting fines, punishing criminals, and placing injunction emblems at the boundaries of disputed land. There is a section for sub-chiefs and nobles, who meet to discuss secret political matters. The inner sanctum of the Night society, the Great Night or the Nine, is a body of men who are the descendants of the original followers of the dynasty’s founder and the highest royal retainers of the chiefdom. The Nine, today, are great nobles, descendants of princesses who were married or retainers.
The Night society meets infrequently today, its functions having been taken over by the West Cameroon administration. In the minds of the people, this group, with its fearful role, its terror masks and mysterious midnight meetings, is associated with danger and the supernatural. The Nine accompany the chief on his supernatural exploits, joining other paramount chiefs and their retinues, transformed into leopards, serpents, rainbows and elephants, to perform feats of agility and to ‘feast’ on human flesh. These beliefs are involved in the Bangwa attitude to the society’s emblems, the Night masks and sticks.
Reference: “Bangwa Funerary Sculpture” by Robert Brain and Adam Pollock.
It can be read online here. Bangwa Funerary Sculpture
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