Skip to content
Bamun Kwifo Society Helmet Mask from Northern Cameroon 2 #569
- Bamun Kwifo Society Helmet Mask from Northern Cameroon 2 #569
Bamun Kingdom, ca. mid-20th century.
- A wood Helmet Mask of sizeable form displaying an oversized head crowned by a towering, openwork headdress. The expressive visage presents generously lidded, almond-shaped eyes beneath arched brows, a broad nose, and full lips parted to reveal 2 rows of sharp, jagged teeth..
- Measurements: Approx. 21" H.
- Provenance: Estate of Thomas McNemar, (1931-2020.) McNemar lived and collected throughout Central and West Africa in the 1960s and 70s. He established Galleries of African Art in New York and San Francisco, selling to Museums and Public and Private Collections in the United States and Europe.
- This mask was likely created for the Kwifo, a secret Male Society of the Bamun People. The face of the wearer would have been hidden within a costume of the Kwifo. The Kwifo Society enforces the Laws of the King, preserves Social Order, and maintains Ancestral Values. In effect, they are a Police Force answerable to the King that carries out orders and punishments at night.
- In fact, the word Kwifo literally means "night". They usually perform in large groups of 8 to 30 people, accompanied by musical instruments, in particular drums, rattles, and the xylophone, all the while maintaining their anonymity by wearing masks like this example. When they make special appearances at Memorials to Kwifo Members, they are especially impressive and received with awe and reverence.
The elaborate openwork headdress features an abstracted Spider Motif; in this Region, the Earth Spider, which lives underground, is traditionally believed to be a Mediator between the Human and Spirit Worlds.
Condition: Chips, nicks, scratches, and abrasions throughout indicating use and wear. Great remaining detail and patina.
- Includes a Custom Made Base