Bangwa ‘Lefem’ Night Society Mask

The Lefem society was a rank association reserved for the chief’s close male and female relatives.

Bangwa Night Society Mask

Tribe: Bangwa

Origin: Babagwa Chiefdom, N.W.Cameroon

Approx Age: 1945

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 35 tall x 35 depth x 30 wide

Ref. Number: 1640


A very old and large Bangwa Janus helmet mask from the secret “Lefem” night society. These helmet masks are rarely seen especially in this good condition. This has received tribal restoration work but very difficult to see. The inside of this helmet shows its true age, a stunning and rare mask that oozes strength and power.

Provenance: Collected from Babgwa Chiefdom 1980 by A.A.Gbetnkom

Additional images


The Lefem society on the other hand was a rank association reserved for the chief’s closest male and female relatives, but members had to pay an entrance fee to obtain the inherited positions. Then they could participate in political decisions and be involved in ceremonial dance performances.
In the twentieth century, they equipped themselves with uniform coats and brass bells, commodities that they pro-cured from the long-distance trade in earlier times.
The lefem to some extent represented the chief as the keeper of the ancestor’s and traditional ethical values. In the end, the Bangwa’s famous wood sculptures, effigies and representations of the chief, his sisters and wives, twin’s parents, the latter priests and priestesses of the earth, and successful hunters are lefem too.
Reference: Bettina Von Lintig. Night masks of the Western Bangwa.
Bangwa Night Society Mask

Photo was taken from the book Bangwa Funerary Sculpture by Robert Brain & Adam Pollock

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