traditional african art from


The name Cameroon originates from the Portuguese word Camaroes (prawns), which were abundant in the Woury River Estuary. In English usage the word Cameroons referred to the nearby mountain range. It is only in 1894 that the Germans used the name Kamerun for the whole of the country. Tropical rainforest in the south slowly gives way to savanna in the central regions and semi-desert in the north. There are 100’s of distinct tribes in Cameroon.

 The Bamileke, Bamoun, and Tikar in the central regions who all share common ancestry are the most populous, and also art historically the most important. In their respective kingdoms art was an important part of the culture and was regularly renewed and created for the enhancement of the kings. The Bamoun were fortunate to be led by King Njoya (1886-1933), a man of exceptional intelligence

The Fulani in the North are very strict and conservative Moslems where the creation of images is not allowed.  In the Northwest are the Kirdi tribes whose culture is more closely linked to neighbouring Nigeria. In the southern rain forest, the Fang, the Bulu, and many others including a fair number of pygmy tribes share their artistic heritage more with the neighbouring people of Gabon and the Congo.

the collection

c1. male bronze leopard

Male leopard
Tikar Kingdom of Bankim, Cameroon

 In most of the West African kingdoms the leopard is revered as a sacred animal, the animal of royalty, and it was portrayed as the symbol of the kings power. In many cases bronze leopard castings represented the royal family, and this is quite evident here as well, with both statues looking equally like superb animals but also with an air of divine humanity which leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. These bronze leopards were given by the Tikar Chief Mvessia (1914-1944) to Njitoyap, a Bamoun teacher who  was also Chief Mvessia’s son in law. The gift was in acknowledgement of the contribution Njitovap had made to the Kingdom of Bankim in terms of education for more than 15 years before he returned to his native Foumban in 1942, where he has kept the artefacts as sacred.

c2. female bronze leopard

female leopard with young
Tikar Kingdom of Bankim, Cameroon

 Njitoyap started out as a boy servant to one of the great Bamoun king Njoya’s cousins before he became a revered teacher. In those days only commoners were sent to school as royalties were not prepared to have their sons subjected to degrading and disgraceful floggings to which learners were subjected in those days.

Mbankim, one of the main centres of the Tikar kingdom is said to have been founded in 1201, but only became recognised officially in 1653 when the dynasty and monarchy was registered officially.  Chief Mvessia who donated the leopard statues took over from his father Gah in 1914. Both statues come to me directly from Njitoyap’s heirs and have never changed hands before.


Wood, Height 100cm
Bamileke, Cameroon

These head dress masks were originally thought to originate from the Batcham area only (hence the name), but they have since frequently been found in all the Bamileke regions of Cameroon. The masks were held up high and used only at royal functions of the local Fon (king), mainly for enthronement and burial purposes. New masks were created with the succession of each new Fon. I have heard locals refer to the masks as chairs, the assumption is that the old masks, originally created for the previous king, were after his departure utilised as chairs.


Wood, Height 56cm

This very special head dress mask was traditionally made and presented to the royal family at the birth of every royal son. The wood is of a light patina, which has softened with age, but is still in excellent condition, except for a small part of the nose which is slightly chipped off, as well as a tiny part of the left ear lobe. Every detail is superbly executed. Looking at the mask from all angles, front, back, and sides, every aspect is masterfully crafted and proportioned, from the flowing lines to the minute details. This is definitely one of my favourite pieces


Height 80cm, Wood, metal inlay
Bulu, Cameroon

The Bulu live in the tropical forests of Southern Cameroon and are closely related to the Fang. Monkeys were adored by the Bulu. Pregnant women were encouraged to eat monkey meat, hoping that some of the monkeys many positive attributes would get transmitted to the newly born. This pipe is an exquisitely  crafted piece of art with amazing attention to detail, especially on the sitting monkey which creates the base of the pipe.  The inside of the bowl is lined with sheet metal. The pipe is made from hardwood and is quite heavy. 


Wood, Length 44cm
Mambila, Cameroon, Nigeria

The Mambila live in the north western region of Cameroon. They have produced large numbers of ancestral statues, but also very simplistic, yet extremely powerful masks. Most of the masks are  depicting animals with very pronounced features, many of them like this particular mask in the shape of a dog’s head. These masks were worn at tribal dances celebrating the end of the planting season. The leading dancer is followed by a row of assistants wearing all kinds of dog’s head, cow’s head,  or other animal masks.

c7. tikar ceremonial shield

Wood, pigment, 54cm diameter
tikar, cameroon

A very striking shield with bold design elements and colours, These shields were produced on the occasion of victory parades and celebrations and were paraded in triumph by young would-be warriors. This shield has no religious or deep traditional meaning, but still portrays an important historical function and looks very striking indeed. I don’t know the exact meaning of the shapes and the colours, but the end result is very bold and symmetrically pleasing.

c8. mambila HELMET MASK

Wood, white pigment, 36cm
Mambila, Cameroon, Nigeria

At dance ceremonies the Mambila used to wear animal inspired headmasks, in this case crocodiles which were quite numerous in their region. The masks were paraded at annual tribal dances to commemorate the planting season. This is a very old and powerful mask, the wood is softened by age, but this only gives it a stronger appeal. It is quite unusual to find Janus type masks like this one, where both the front and back parts are representing open jaws.

c9. tikar beaded stool

Wood, beads, cowrie shells height 50cm
Tikar, Cameroon

This exquisitly decorated stool would have belonged to a very important person closely related to the royal household. Most traditional art in the kingdoms of Cameroon was executed directly for the king, or to enhance the image of the king. The seating part is supported by two leopards, the animals of royalty, and also by two male figures, probably depicting important ancestors.


Height 24cm
Tikar, Cameroon

This is a very powerful display of a couple, symbolising their unity, as such joined at the hip with one central leg. This joining of the leg has been used repeatedly in the display of royal couples, including on some famous old Benin bronze statues from the 17th century, or going back even further to the IFE statues from around 1200 AD. No royal adornments are displayed, so this seems to be just a symbolic union of  the sexes.


Wood, Height 58cm
Bulu, Southern Cameroon

Ngi in the local language of the Bulu is the name for the Gorilla, a fearful animal. The gorilla spirit was believed to watch village peoples every days life and behaviour from the forest and punish any perceived transgressions at night. The Bulu are closely related to the Fang and similarities to traditional Fang sculptures can be seen in this statue, like the way the gorilla is resting on his legs and the arms meeting at the stomach. Like many African sculptures it combines both human and animal features. The double row of eyes is probably emphasising the belief that the Ngi are constantly watching the people of the village and nothing is hidden from them. The statue has a carefully created coarse patina, similar to a gorilla’s hairy skin.


Wood, Cowrie shells, Height 97cm
Bangwa, Cameroon

The Bangwa are one of the smaller tribes in the Cameroon grasslands and form a tiny kingdom within the much larger Bamileke society. The kingdom consists of only 9 small chiefdoms.  The portrayal of the dancing Queen is a well known subject of Bangwa art, but it is quite rare to see statues of the royal couple together. The intricately crafted decoration with cowrie shells makes the figures come alive, one can actually sense the rhythmic movement of the arms and legs to the beat of the drums. This usage of cowrie shells  is quite unusual as cowrie shells were used as the local currency and were very valuable.

c13. ngon helmet mask

Oku kingdom, Northwestern Grasslands, Cameroon, Height 52cm

This helmet mask is only allowed to be worn by the king. It emphasises the power the king has over the entire population. At the base of the mask would be a dried grass attachment to fit around the head. The mask symbolises the richness, abundance and wealth in the kingdom, displayed through the almost cheerful and exuberant depiction of people in togetherness building a new home. A very rare piece. My friend Salim has visited the remote Oku area 5 times between 1997 and 2002 and thanks to him do we know the full story behind this exquisite piece, which at first doesn’t look look like a mask at all.


Wood, animal hide, Height 125cm
Bamileke, Cameroon

Ceremonial drums with elaborate carvings are valuable objects in traditional African culture. The large size and the multiple carvings bear testimony to the importance of this drum. It is mainly lizards and frogs that decorate the drum, plus a few symbolic decorations. The well used leather hide on top gives a sense of usage right up to the recent past.


Bronze, Height 28cm
Sao, Cameroon

The Sao Kingdom to the south of Lake Chad was at the height of it’s power between the 11th and 16th centuries when large populations lived in walled cities. Important artefacts from that time have been found in this now sparsely populated semi desert area. The three riders seem to represent two armed warriors with a captured enemy. Many artefacts in bronze and terracotta are still found today.


Terracotta, metal, wood, Height 30cm
Sao, Cameroon

Many terracotta pieces of old Sao history have been found over the years and are still being discovered today, in what has now become a vast semi desert area. The interpretation or meaning for most of them is mostly very unclear. This elaborate sculpture was obviously an important spiritual statue created to shield against and to get rid of bad spirits.

c17. display tusk

tikar, Cameroon
Wood, Height 180cm

These tusks  originate from the area of Adamaouwa. The previous owners who are known to me contacted my friend Salifou Mboumbou Mpetit to find a new home.

c18. display tusk

tikar, Cameroon
Wood, Height 200cm

The wood has mellowed a little  over the years. and some sections have tropical lichen grown onto them, but this makes the tusks even more interesting.

c19. ceremonial pipe

Bamileke, Cameroon
Wood,metal, Height 80cm

A very old and extensively used pipe. Pipes were regularly carved utensils in the grasslands of Cameroon. The  King or Fon and members of the royal household would use pipes made out of brass, ivory, or bone. The higher ranking officials had pipes from terracotta or wood with engraved decorations and symbols, while the commoners used basic undecorated terracotta or wooden pipes.

c20. diviner statue

Bamileke, Cameroon
Wood, Height 111cm

This statue features a diviner holding onto a large bowl. This is a bold statue from heavy dark wood with lots of detailed engravings. The face displays typical Cameroon grassland features. The diviner is holding on to a sturdy and well structured bowl. The lid of the bowl features a large catlike animal, probably a lioness. The bowl is held aloft by a male figure.

c21. ekoi mask

ejagham, Cameroon
Wood, horn, leather, pigment, Height 170cm

The Ekoi people of western Cameroon and south eastern Nigeria are the only people in the area who used to cover their wooden masks with skin. It is said that historically human skin from enemies or slaves was used as the covering material. We don’t know if this is true, but later on this was definitely changed to antelope hide. The Ejagham people live in the southwestern corner of Cameroon and also across the border in Nigeria along the Cross river.

c22. ekoi mask

ejagham, cameroon
Wood,horns, leather, pigment Height 170cm

Janus faced masks like this one where normally worn with the dark (male) side, in this case blue,  facing forward and the lighter female side to the rear. Helmet masks which are decorated with horns are depicting an elegant female hairstyle, said to represent a beautiful young woman that is ready for marriage. Both these masks are very old and there are still small scraps of some bits of original leather covering left behind.

c23. beaded table

kom, cameroon,
Wood, Beads, Height 50cm

This beautiful beaded table, comes from the village Lebia-Allem in north western Cameroon where it was part of the inheritance of the local chief. The four legs are constructed with powerful buffalo heads and a striking geometric pattern is displayed on top. The Kom live in the north western mountainous regions of Cameroon, close to the border with Nigeria. The Kom are ruled by the Fon (king)  who is assisted by a council of elders. Every village in the kingdom is governed by a chief. These chiefs, advised by the elders are responsible for selecting the Fon.

c24. pornographic study

kom, Cameroon
Wood,beads, Height 80cm

This unusual statue originates from the Lay-Nkum village. It was carved by the village’s master carver Tata Nqwen George after the first pornographic images made their appearance in the area. Apparently that was in 1906. The piece was later officially handed over to the settlements chief traditional healer where it was used to assist in treating impotence of men. The beaded table and the pornographic study have a similar style and finish, so it can be assumed that both were created by Tata Nqwen George. Both pieces are in superb condition.

c25. large mask

BAMILEKE, Cameroon
wood, height 58cm

It is almost inconceivable that the image above and the one on the right are actually the same identical mask. Three powerful guardian warriors present the crownlike top with two sets of tusks framing the face. The set of wide teeth could belong to a gorilla while the round eyes remind of a buffalo. The nose is created in typical Bamileke style and is sometimes shaped as a reminder of male sexual organs.

c25. large mask

bamileke, Cameroon
wood, height 58cm

This mask was in the possession my friend Abraham who treasured it for many decades as an important gift from his father, who was given this mask in 1960, when he spent many years travelling through Central Africa passing on his knowledge and equipping people with the knowhow and tools to establish their own local bakeries. Abraham parted with it due to Covid related financial pressures.  

c26. oLD DRUM

BAMILEKE, Cameroon

A very worn and used old drum. Lizard images are carved around the upper section and antelope heads around the lower part. The lower section is quite eroded, probably from standing on wet soil for a long period, but the drum still balances on it’s legs and stands upright. Drums were used for sending messages to the people of the local village, but also to inform the neighbouring clans, and of course also for providing the rythmic beat in many celebratory functions.

c27. elephant tusks

tikar, Cameroon
ivory, length 47cm

These tusks belonged to a Bamun noble hunter called Munchi, who migrated to Magba on the right bank of the Mbam river where he settled with all his belongings, close to the home of his cousins in 1938. These tusks were prominently displayed in his sitting room to show off the exploits of his hunting. It is not known when exactly they were carved, all we know is that they were already in his belonging when he moved there in 1938.

c28. Male Mask

baMILEKE, cameroon
wOOD, height 45cm

Masks were traditionally paraded at annual festivities or at funerals of important dignitaries.  Masks mostly representing ancestral females or males and of animals were displayed by a succession of dancers. There are various kinds of male masks carved with different coiffures. In this mask 19 individual faces make up the hairstyle and a beard with the ears tucked in between. There is also exquisite detail on eyebrows, eyes, nose, and mouth and delicately carved teeth. Very good wood material, excellent condition.

c29. stool

bamileke, Cameroon
wood, height 45cm

This is a beautifully executed carved stool. The use of three leopards to support the seat indicates that it was carved for the royal household, as no commoner would be allowed to associate with leopards, which were acknowledged as the animals of royalty. The different colour shades of the wood add and enhance the visual experience. A small piece of one ear is chipped off, and one of the toes is chipped a little. A strange feature is that only one off the leopards has carved toes while the other two end up in round lumps.

c30. hunters statue

baMILEKE, cameroon
wOOD, height 50cm

Most statues of the Bamileke as well as their neighbours, the Bamun and the Tikar were created for the royal household. The majority were ancestral figures, or portraits of the king, his wives and attendants. This Hunter’s statue is quite unusual and clearly demonstrates that hunters occupied a prestigious position in the Bamileke society. The  hunter used to carry a spear in the right hand, which together with a knife were the traditional hunting weapons. The statue is executed with realistic detail and a tense hunters stance ready to attack or defend. A strange feature are the oddly shaped feet which must have a meaning, but of which we are unaware of.

c31. victory figure

sao, Cameroon
wood, height 76cmcm

The Sao enjoyed an old and long lasting civilisation in the area around Lake Chad. The sculpture displays the typical raised arms victory sign of Sao war leaders. The Sao civilisation flourished in Central Africa from the 6th century to the 16th century. Unfortunately there is no written history, but artefacts show skilled works in copper, iron, and ceramics. Today several ethnic groups claim descendancy of the Sao, especially the Sara, so this wooden figure will in all probability stem from them, as they claim the heritage of the former Sao kingdom.

c32. pottery

Terracotta, black paint height 28cm

These two pots are part of a very old collection. Here is the history: Nji Pamfeyouo was known as a powerful healer who had the gift of knowing the virtues of herbs for treating  mankind. He officially held the title of NKOM (member of the royal council, in charge of traditional affairs) until his death in 1982. Like so many noble men in African society, he was polygamous and a father of many sons. One of his sons was Chouaibou Njoya Nkuandi. Struck by severe illness, his family gave him the authority to dispose some of his fathers artefacts in order to raise money for his treatment. He came to South Africa and received treatment in a Johannesburg hospital.

c33. pottery

Terracotta, pigment, Height 38cm

Unfortunately it was too late and he passed away, but not before he had contacted my good friend Abraham who was recommended to him as the most honourable and knowledgeable art dealer in the country. In his true passionate fashion Abraham committed himself to raise enough money to at least cover the costs for the removal of the corpse to Cameroon. The pottery originally was in possession of a famous hunter from Nigeria, called Munchi who later resided in Tikar country until he relocated back to Bamoun territory in 1938. The pots were probably created by one of his wives. and were given to NKOM Nji Pamfeyoua for his healing services.

c34. coronation mask

bamileke, Cameroon
wood, pigment, height 64cm

This extremely large and powerful mask was used at coronations of the King and Queen, as well as for marriage celebrations of prominent people in the Bamileke society. It is almost inconceivable to accept that the two images displayed are of the same mask. What definitely is a spider on the first image, looks almost like the crown of a king with a powerful birds beak imposed on exaggerated facial features in the next image on the right. A unique master piece.

c35. Terracotta figures

mambila, Cameroon
Terracotta,ochre and white paint,height 15cm

The Mambila occupy the regions north of the Cameroon Grasslands and across the border into Nigeria. These figures are in typical Mambila style with bulging eyes, wide open mouth and raised bumps all over the body. The statue on the right is female with a baby sitting on her shoulders, while the shorter figure on the left is more mystical, showing no signs of sexuality and has a long elongated baby figure stretched all over the body, while raising it’s short arms in a gesture of a specific jubilant meaning.

c36. spider stool

Bamun, Cameroon
Wood, Height 35cm

The stool comes from Foumban in the Cameroon Grasslands, the heartland of the Bamun kingdom. It belonged to Nji Mboumbou Arouna Idriss, a nobleman in the tier of princes of the Bamoun kingdom, and direct descendant of King Ibrahim Njoya (1860-1933). The spider is the traditional symbol of both wisdom and security, a well cherished characteristic by the Bamun royalty and nobility. The chair was brought to South Africa by his son as a very special personal item and was handed over to me directly from him.

c37. Fertility statues

tikar, Cameroon
wood, raffia, height 40cm

This fertility couple is endowed with strong reproduction virtues. The male figure was consulted in instances of male impotence, and the female figure in cases of infertility. The long outstretched tongues are depictions of the power and might which is accumulated in the spiritual realm. The figures were also used to assist during initiation rites. The raffia fibre represents a  normal hair style.

c38. Head mask

mambila, Cameroon
Wood, length 53cm

This head or helmet mask was worn on top of the head. Masks representing all kinds of animals or human traits were paraded at annual tribal dances to commemorate the planting season. Some of the masks displayed realistic features, while others were totally abstract like this one which represents a crocodile with the open jaws in front and the powerful tail at the back.

c39. DRUM

BAMILEKE, Cameroon
wood, hide, natural fibres, height 60cm

A very old and weathered drum. Large lizards are carved around the central body, with geometric designs above and below. Everything  is extremely well balanced and of a very sophisticated, bold, and of a minimalistic design style. The drum appears to be resting on a specially crafted stool, which adds to the visual experience.

c40. celebratory pipe

south western Cameroon
ceramic,Wood,beads height 1m plus stem

This community pipe was put in the centre of the dancing area and the participants in turn took a regular puff. It has attractive and well designed features with a human head as base, geometric designs, and some abstract and elegant phantasy animal and human features. The stem is beautifully decorated with beads.

c41, kings procession

sao , Cameroon
bronze, lenth 36cm

This is a depiction of a SAO kings procession by boat on the Chari river to visit his riverine lands and suspects. The king is shaded with an umbrella held by a trusted guard. Accompanying the king are the queen and his council of elders. 


SAO, Cameroon

This jewellery item weighs exactly 5.4 kg, so it was obviously to heavy and large for anyone to wear. It belonged to the king and was displayed  next to where he was seated to show off and mark his wealth and importance in society. It displays very intricate design details all around the outside.

c43, kings necklace

sao , Cameroon
bronze, length 38cm

Large necklace which was worn by the king. The necklace has 6 bells attached.

c44, quenn mothers necklace

SAO, Cameroon
bronze, length 38cm

This necklace was probably worn by the queen mother, who was the second most important person in the hierarchy of the SAO. it has 4 bells attached.

c45, jewellery armbands

sao , Cameroon
bronze, length 28cm

These very heavy armbands were created for the usage by the king only.

c46, Jewellery display

SAO, Cameroon
bronze, width 20cm

 This intricate display belonged to the king/s mother or to the queen. These items are very old and surprise with their intricate details.

c47, Monkey statue

bulu , Cameroon
paintd wood, height 35cm

The Bulu are inhabiting the south-cental forest areas of Cameroon. They are related to the Fang and actually are one of the three major subdivisions of the Fang. Monkeys and especially gorillas played an important part in the traditions of the Bulu.

c48, Monkey statue

bulu, Cameroon
painted wood, height 30cmcm

Monkeys were revered to such an extend that Bulu women were encouraged to eat monkey meat, so that the positive attributes of monkeys will reflct in her own offspring.

c49, bell

sao , northern Cameroon
bronze, height 31cm

Tthis bell with its intricate and detailed design probably belonged to the royal household. It is still in excellent condition.

c50, bells

sao, northern cameroon
bronze, height 27 and 29cm

These exquisite shells were used for communication between the clans and nearby naighbours.

c47, Monkey statue

bulu , Cameroon
paintd wood, height 35cm

The Bulu are inhabiting the south-cental forest areas of Cameroon. They are related to the Fang and actually are one of the three major subdivisions of the Fang. Monkeys and especially gorillas played an important part in the traditions of the Bulu.

c48, Monkey statue

bulu, Cameroon
painted wood, height 30cmcm

Monkeys were revered to such an extend that Bulu women were encouraged to eat monkey meat, so that the positive attributes of monkeys will reflct in her own offspring.

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