TITLE: Bamileke Kuosi Society Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
DESCRIPTION: Mbap Mgteng elephant mask
CATALOG ID: AFCM001
CEREMONY: Kuosi Society
AGE: ca. 1970s-1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: glass beads; cotton wadding; thread
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 cloth elephant mask, known as mbap mgteng, depicts an animal of great power on the African plains. Its use is reserved for members of the elite Kuosi Society, who assist the fon (king) in maintaining social control.
Beads were historically imported from the Europeans and very costly, and so their use in a mask represents high status. The more richly beaded the mask, the higher the wearer’s status.