|Title||Bamun Mask Big Smile Brass Sheeting Cameroon African Art|
|Type of Object||handmade brass beads|
|Country of Origin||Cameroon|
|People||Bamileke or Bamun, Bamum|
|Materials||Wood, brass sheeting (unknown metal content), cotton cloth|
|Approximate Age||20th century|
|Dimensions||Height: 15.5 Inches
Width: 11.5 Inches
Depth: 5.5 Inches
|Overall Condition||Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.|
|Damage/Repair||small dents, scratches, and tarnishing; see pictures for details.|
Additional Information: Identified with the Bamun, this mask shares stylistic traits with the Bamileke or even with the Tikar and other Western Grasslands peoples, reflecting the complex transfer of style through trade and the migration of artists. The mask is made of wood covered with brass sheeting, with silver on the eyes and teeth. The headdress is wrapped in cotton cloth. This mask is a stron and well-crafted example of the art of Cameroon and carries symbolic meaning as well as aesthetic reflection of the artistically sophisticated Bamun people.
Such a headpiece was worn on the head by retainers at the courts of various Grasslands kingdoms in Cameroon. Thay appeared at ceremonies associated with planting and harvesting as well as other events celebrating the rulers or simply as entertainment for the king and his court.
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.
For similar examples see Tamara Nortthern, Expressions of Cameroon Art. The Franklin Collection, 1986
See also Paul Gebauer, 1979, ART OF CAMEROON, Oregon: Portland Art Association;Tamaran Northern, 1984, THE ART OF CAMEROON, Washington D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution