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African Art- Cameroon Grasslands

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African art stands out from most other art forms found around the world. African art is so unique because of the unusual supplies that are used to create the art such as beads, shells, and wood. The use of different carvings and different statues created also benefit to African art's distinctive style. However, every region of Africa is known for their own different style of art. For example, the Cameroon Grasslands have their own particular style of art. The Cameroon Grasslands are known for various forms of art, but they are most popularly known for their masks created for masquerades.1 The Bamileke, the southwest cultural group of the Grasslands, are known for creating elephant masks for their community masquerades.2 These elephant masks are used for celebratory reasons, but also hold religious and political importance to the Bamileke region. The elephant masks of the Cameroon Grasslands are most popularly used during the Bamileke elephant masquerades.3 These elephant masquerades are also known as 'mbap mteng.'4 The dance is associated with the symbolism of the royal power and the rule of the kingdom.5 The elephant masks are most commonly worn by men, and are sometimes linked to secret societies.6 For example, in the Bamileke community, these elephant masks are linked to "mkeen."7 This is Bamileke's secret society and the elephant ...read more.


The elephant is most commonly represented because it is a rare animal of Africa.19 The elephant is represented through the masks worn by the dancers during the elephant masquerade. The elephant is a great importance to the Bamileke society because the elephant is seen as one of the most 'commanding' land creatures in African culture.20 This being said, these elephant masks are appropriate symbols of the leaders of the Bamileke communities since the leaders are seen as the most commanding in the community. These elephant masks represent kingship, wealth, and mysterious powers of the king.21 These powers are believed to be given to the king by a god.22 The elephant masks are generally worn by the powerful members of the Bamileke society, which include members of royalty, wealthy title holders, and ranking warriors.23 Or they are worn by the members of the mkeen to entertain the powerful members who are being represented in the dance. Along with representing the king, these elephant masks hold religious importance by being worn during funerary rituals of the Bamileke society.24 In the African culture, they believe that at time of death, the body dies but the spirit and soul live on and continue to surround the living.25 When a member of the Bamileke society dies, the mourning process lasts a few days.26 When the mourning process is over, there is a masquerade to celebrate the life of the deceased one. ...read more.


27 May 2009. 3 Ibid 4 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask (New York: Museum of African Art, 2002), 15. 5 Umlauft-Thielicke, Gloria J. "Republic of Cameroon." 6 Ibid. 7 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 20. 8 Wittmer, Marcilene. "Bamileke Village Masks." 9 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 21. 10 Ibid. 11Eyer, Laure. Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry (New York: Booking International, 1994), 75. 12 Ibid. 13 Eyer, Laure. Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry, 80-83. 14 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 25. 15 Wittmer, Marcilene. "Bamileke Village Masks." 16 Cole, Herbert M., ed, I am not Myself: The Art of African Masquerade (Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1985) 72-73. 17 Ibid. 77 18 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 35. 19 Ibid, 37. 20 Segy, Ladislas, Masks of Black Africa (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1976), 33. 21 Ibid. 22 Umlauft-Thielicke, Gloria J. "Republic of Cameroon." 23 Cole, Herbert M., ed, I am not Myself: The Art of African Masquerade, 74. 24 Eyer, Laure, Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry, 80-82. 25 Eyer, Laure, Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry, 90 26 Ibid, 91. 27 Ibid, 83. 28 Cole, Herbert M., ed, I am not Myself: The Art of African Masquerade,82. 29 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 30. 30 Ibid, 34. 31 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 32. 32 Ibid, 33. 33 Umlauft-Thielicke, Gloria J. "Republic of Cameroon." 34 Herreman, Frank, Facing the Mask, 49. ...read more.

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