Power, strength, dominion and religion, are all
connected with art and the king in Cameroon society.
The king, or Fon, was the focal point of life, around
which everything revolved. The ancient kings were
reputedly endowed with supernatural power that
allowed them to change into animals. With or without
psychic ability the king had great responsibilities,
including guaranteeing fertility of the fields and
fecundity of the women! Regalia and various
elaborate works of art were created for the king and
visiting dignitaries. These included masks of a variety
of different purposes, often designed for different
societies within a tribe. For instance, the Kwifon
owned masks that, according to tradition, had been
created and consecrated by ancestors themselves.
This remarkable mask is composed of many features,
different perspectives, and a power of presentation
that capitalizes on its three-dimensional aspect. The
main figure shows a male smiling broadly, his eyes
wide open as if in wonder or surprise. On his head is
a sort of crown with three small mask-like heads.
Each face has an intriguing, almost cherubic
expression, instantly appealing and delightful. They
probably represent ancestral spirits, watching over
their living relative. For many African people the
souls of their ancestors are a very real presence and
participate in their daily lives. To make offerings of
worship and reverence were important and could
result in heartfelt feelings of respect and love.
Imagine this mask worn in union with many others, all
dancing together in unison, with energy and great
emotion. To capture these many feelings in art is the
artist's triumph; as in this remarkable mask, blending
skilled workmanship with humor, honor, and wisdom
as homage to the indestructible human spirit.