Bamum or Tikar Sword Handle



Circa 1900

Among Cameroon grassfields Kingdoms, it is notable that only Bamum (or Tikar people) make swords with handles made of ivory. In addition to this material of prestige, reserved for the elite, they are other very interesting elements to note, both in the construction and the design of this piece.

First this type of handle was riveted, which is a technique taken from european cutlery. It could have been inspired from a french or a portuguese naval swords for example. Moreover some of these Bamun or Tikar handles have a crossguard (thank you SD for these judicious points).

Secondly, European coins were sometime added as a decoration under the rivets.

From a design point of view, one must recognize the creature depicted here is very unusual in african arts. Contrary to what we could read here and there, it doesn't seems to represent a lion but more a kind of ...dragon. It even reminds us the mythical creatures depicted in the "Dragon fountain" of Versailles (have a look on google image )

Based on these elements we thus form the hypothesis that these Kingdoms from Western Cameroon got inspired from European royal symbols and techniques to create their own regalia, which is a phenomenon well studied for other African Kingdoms, such as the Kongo.

The piece comes from Carlo de Poortere (1917-2002) by descent and sits on a custom stand, and is in excellent condition.


H: 12 cm (4 3/4 inches)

Price: 800 euros enquiry