Cameroon white mask with red bird
Detail: Cameroon wood carved white mask with red bird
Cameroonian Wood Carvings:
Cameroon white mask with red bird. Woodcarving was originally not decorative, but played an important function in Cameroonian society, with objects associated with ceremonies and performances. Carvings were not only judged by how they looked, but also by the amount of power they possessed and by what they could do. Many objects were used to communicate with ancestors and other powerful spirits. Carvers were held in high esteem and worked mostly for forts (local kings). In fact, the late fon (chief of a local group) of Babungo was himself a talented carver, who descended from a royal line of carvers.
Today both tourists and fons support woodcarvers. In addition to traditional items like drums, masks, statues, house posts, doors, door frames, vessels, mortars, royal beds, thrones, and games, carvers of recent times also produce figurines, wall plaques, and contemporary furniture. Items destined for tourists are usually not as fine as items crafted for a fon or his court. Many forts, however, in an effort to earn money for their people, are selling their old carvings and commissioning new replacements. These Bamileke, Tikar, and Bamoun antiquities can be found in museums and collections around the world. Some carvings, however, have been stolen and sold to collectors, which has caused quite a hardship on the people, since these special objects are believed to possess great power and cannot be easily replaced.