Additional Information: The buffalo masks of the Cameroon Grasslands are the prized possession of the "Fon," or regional leader, and are worn by dancers on top of their heads during agricultural ceremonies.
The Bamileke are one of the artistically elite groups of the Cameroon Grasslands, along with the Bamun and the Bamenda Tikar. These groups produce an array of beautiful and unique objects, which are used almost exclusively by the royal courts of the regional Fon.
Buffalos, large game animals with massive bodies, were associated with power, and buffalo masks, worn on the top of the head, were an important part of every ritual dance. Their rank, however, was beneath that of the leopard and elephant. There are beaded buffalo masks, but they are more scarce than the wooden ones.
The art of the grasslands area of Cameroon is a royal art, devoted to the veneration of ancestors and the enrichment of the Fon, or main chief. The Cameroon Grasslands is a large and extremely diverse cultural area, inhabited by a large number of related peoples. The main groups are the Bamilike, Bamum, and Bamenda Tikar. The Bamileke are one of the artistically elite groups of the Cameroon Grasslands, along with the Bamun and the Bamenda Tikar. These groups produce an array of beautiful and unique objects, which are used almost exclusively by the royal courts of the regional Fon. There are also numerous, still-smaller groups, which are loosely affiliated with one another and share many historical and political similarities. All of these groups originally came from an area to the north, scattering in complex patterns during the last several centuries. Fulani traders moving steadily southwards into Cameroon during the 17th century forced the southern movement of most of the current residents. The dense forests, though now disappearing, and the scattered nature of the many tiny villages, have made the study of this area a daunting task for ethnologists, and has prevented the development of a "school of thought" concerning their artistic output.
Recommended Reading: Paul Gebauer, 1979, ART OF CAMEROON, Oregon: Portland Art Association;Tamaran Northern, 1984, THE ART OF CAMEROON, Washington D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution