Western Bamileke or Bangwa, Cameroon, 1800-1900
Human skull, fiber, beads, glass
Height : 18 cm
Provenance : Musée international du Golfe de Guinée, Lomé
René David, Zurich
Publication : This object has been published on a postal card edited by the museum cited above in Lomé.
Publication : "Golgotha"
(M. Doustar, 2014), n°7
In his book Arts Anciens du Cameroun, 1986, Pierre Harter identified only half a dozen beaded heads, called atwonzen, originating from the Bamileke and Bangwa country. They were all invariably made of a wood core covered with woven fabric and threaded with rows of beads ; yet, all of them had a different aspect and expression. The most famous example is the head offered to Pierre Harter by the King fon, Feinboy N’Ketté, in 1957, and illustrated below.
These heads, dating back to the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, are depictions of the skulls of enemies. They were worn by the rulers around the neck, attached by a thong of buffalo leather or by a cord of wukari fabric, on ceremonial occasions and during certain warrior dances such as the tso or nzen.
We believe these heads coexisted with real beaded skulls, which Harter observed in situ in the villages of Foto and Fontem in the Bangwa country, but this particular corpus is extremely limited in public collections ; therefore it is a unique opportunity to illustrate one example in this volume.