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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Cameroon Grasslands : Bamileke Wooden Poles from the Chief's Residence
Bamileke Wooden Poles from the Chief's Residence - PF.4568
Origin: Grasslands of Central Cameroon
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 100.5" (255.3cm) high x 13.5" (34.3cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Additional Information: XX - SOLD

Location: United States
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The grassland region of Cameroon is one of the most artistically prolific regions in central western Africa. The art created from this region is most commonly recognized by the thick-set and powerful figures, deeply set eye sockets, with a function to protect.

The Bamileke tribe of this area produce much of this striking art, attempting to clearly represent the Cheiftaincy of the region. Ruled by a Fon, the art emulates the power and sacredness of the figure. As supreme arbiter, Master of the elements, Lord of the soil, Supreme judge, and Governer of the community, the artwork produced must be powerful both physically and spiritually. These wooden poles mark this powerfulness, and bestow upon us a feeling of reverence and bountiful duty. Both the material and the artistry share in creating this powerful imagery. Though partially worn away by the ravages of time and the elements, which has also worn away the original paint work, these magnificent pieces originally stood outside of the Chieftains house, helping to support the outside structure, constructed out of bamboo, and to protect those inside. Reinforcing the image of the powerful being housed within, the carving is enhanced with the ample faces and bellies. Along with this, one sees the distinct hierarchy of the chiefdom. However, more importantly is the chief's lineage, which is proudly represented on the poles. It is the distinct and honorable connection that justifies and accentuates the chief's power and influence. At the top of these carved poles are the male ancestors, watching over the current ruler, protecting him with their powers and using their past reputations for strength and authority. This authority is exemplified by their nudity and the horn-shaped object which they hold in their hands. Directly below are the representations of his female ancestors, a grounding connection to the earth over which he presides. This strong combination signifies his continuing dominance and power within the society.

Though his regional power seems small to us in comparison to the world powers that have emerged in the past, the beautiful artwork representing this power surpasses all others in its spiritual strength. The influence of the Fon is clear, unmatched by any other. To affect our own spirits in such a powerful way though we remain detached, one has to wonder about the awesome power the figure would have had to his direct followers. Such power can rarely be explained, only respected. After all, who would dare question the authority of such a powerful and dominant ruler whose power is reflected in all the art around him?
- (PF.4568)


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