Bamileke Hats from Cameroon
The Bamileke tribe was originally from an area to the north of Cameroon known as Mbam. In the 17th century, traders moved southward and currently reside in the grasslands of western Cameroon. Today their population consists of about 8 million people. In Bamileke tradition, the Kuosi society, who report directly to the king, are responsible for dramatic masquerading displays.
As shown, the Kuosi wear their impressive beaded elephant masks and feathered headdresses.
This was formerly a warrior society, whose members today are made up of powerful, wealthy men. Even the king may don a mask for an appearance at a Kuosi celebration which is a public dance held every other year as a display of the kingdom’s wealth.
Many of the artworks produced by the Bamileke tribe are associated with royal ceremonies. Most Bamileke statues represent the chief. Art objects showed the position of a person it the hierarchy. As a person descended or ascended the social ladder the materials used and the number of pieces changed. In a chief’s residence, one would find ancestral figures and masks, as well as headdresses, bracelets, beaded thrones, pipes, necklaces, swords, horns, fans, elephant tusks, leopard skins, terracotta pots, and dishware. All of this was used to assert the chief’s power. Beadwork and masks are common in this tribe. Masks were decorated with copper, cowrie shells, and beads. They were carved to represent male and female heads, stag, buffalo, birds, and elephant. The elephant masks and the buffalo masks represented power and strength.
With thanks to extracts from www.forafricanart.com