Exhibitions/ Art Object

Architectural Element: Female

Date:
19th–20th century
Geography:
Cameroon, Grassfields, Fumban City
Culture:
Bamum
Medium:
Wood
Dimensions:
H. 34 x W. 13 1/4 x D. 11 3/4 in. (86.4 x 33.7 x 29.9 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964
Accession Number:
1978.412.438
Not on view
Cameroon’s Grassfields region is organized into numerous polities whose populations range from several hundred to tens of thousands. At the apex of each of these highly stratified centers is an individual who serves as a spiritual and political authority. The strength, wealth, and magnificence of such leaders is reinforced through a tradition of royal art. Palace architecture is the most visible insignia of leadership, and the carved pillars supporting roofs an important platform of expression. The imagery that adorns such architectural elements is often of attendants and slaves. This figure and its male counterpart appears to have belonged to a single pillar and depict a shackled female subject and a man making a gesture of deference towards the king. An archival photograph documents that they were kept in the royal palace of Fumban, the capital of the Bamum kingdom, shortly before being brought to the West.

In 1966, this female figure was sent to Dakar, Senegal, along with 22 other works from the Museum of Primitive Art. There it was featured as part of an important exhibition organized for the First World Festival of Negro Art. Organized only a few years after many African nations gained independence, this ambitious international gathering was seen as a celebration of the cultural diversity of creative ideas and art developed across the continent and its diaspora. Initiated by Senegal’s first president Léopold Sédar Senghor, under the auspices of UNESCO and the French government, the event included an exhibition of traditional art, Negro Art: Sources, Evolution, Expansion, as well as theatre and dance performances. Echoing Senghor’s political ambitions and theories, the Festival was to be "a solemn and unprecedented assertion of values of Négritude," the pan-African ideological movement he developed as a literary figure and public intellectual.
[Charles Ratton, Paris, until 1961]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1964; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primtive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, 23.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 397.

Fagg, William B. African Sculpture. Washington, DC: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1970, no. 65, p. 68.

Related Objects

Commemorative Figure (Lefem)

Artist: Date: 19th–early 20th century
Accession Number: 1978.412.576
Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, organic matter, fiber Accession: 1978.412.576 On view in:Gallery 352

Kneeling Statue of Yuny

Artist: Date: ca. 1294–1279 B.C.
Accession Number: 33.2.1
Date: ca. 1294–1279 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 33.2.1 On view in:Gallery 130

Helmet Mask

Artist: Date: before 1880
Accession Number: 1978.412.560
Date: before 1880 Medium: Wood, copper, glass beads, raffia, cowrie shells Accession: 1978.412.560 On view in:Gallery 352

Figure

Artist: Date: 16th–20th century
Accession Number: 1979.541.1
Date: 16th–20th century Medium: Wood, sacrificial materials Accession: 1979.541.1 On view in:Gallery 350

Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkun)

Artist: Date: 19th–mid-20th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.150
Date: 19th–mid-20th century Medium: Wood, bird skull, porcupine quills, horns, cotton, sacrificial materials Accession: 1979.206.150 On view in:Gallery 350