Bamun Tu Nkum Mplet mask, Cameroon
wood, pigment
ex private collection, Zurich
21" / 53.5 cm tall
early to mid 20th century


The embellishments on the headdress are carved wooden
cowrie shells. The design depicts the symbolically potent
imagery of a stylized spider, associated with wisdom, in the
headdress. The pierced lower lip is something often found on
older masks of this type.

Kwifoyn (called Mbansie in some sources) society is
responsible for upholding the laws of the Bamun kingdom;
members mediate conflict and implement criminal justice when

To highlight the wealth of the fon and the status of participant
members, an annual
Nja harvest festival is held during which
sacrifices are made at the graves of past
fons. Held in
December or January, the dry season, the
Nja festival is a
display of hundreds of anthropomorphic (human) and
zoomorphic (animal) masquerades dancing through the
palace courtyard in single file. The dancers and their masks
are a visual representation of Bamun society and social rank.

Tu nkum mpelet helmet masks are paraded by the most
senior members of the Kwifoyn society.” - from IMO DARA
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