Collection Spotlight for November

Ancestral figure
Group: Bamileke (Bamun)
Country of Origin: Cameroon
Medium: Wood, fiber, glass beads
Dimensions:30 x 7 3/4 x 10 inches
Accession #: 2012.003.031
Gift of Emile H. Mathis II

This regal ancestral guardian is from the Bamileke society in Cameroon, Africa. The Bamileke society was a subsidiary of the Bamun Kingdom in the grasslands region of Africa. Beaded figures represented the kingdom’s wealth as beads were treasured tradeable items. The inclusion of glass beads on objects distinguished persons of political rank and economic wealth in the Bamileke group. Production and accumulation of beads was controlled by the King, or ‘Fon.’ Hence, this prestigiously embellished guardian would have been displayed during ceremonies for the Fon. A further symbol of leadership is represented in the calabash receptacle that the figure holds, which was used for palm-wine offerings.

Jackie Murphy, Fall 2015 UWM Art History Galleries Graduate Student Intern