TITLE: Bamileke Kam Crest
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Status
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: glass beads; adhesive; yarn
The Bamileke people of the Cameroon grasslands are closely related to their neighbors, the Babanki and Bamoun peoples, and have similar artistic styles. The Bamileke society is highly stratified by lineage, with certain royal lineages exclusively entitled to wear certain masks. Lineage masks may represent persons, such as the kam, ngoin, or animals, and are used principally at funerals and annual festivals for the harvesting of crops. The kam mask is reserved for royalty and is the highest ranking mask, with ngoin, his wife (whose mask is similar but in a helmet shape), also highly ranked.
Bamileke masks are typically made of carved wood, sometimes with white kaolin clay coloring. This one is assiduously beaded, which indicates the high status of the wearer, as beads and brass are materials reserved to chiefs and their kin.