Bamum or Bamileke people, Cameroon
19th to very early 20th Century
Honestly I had no idea what this container was when I acquired it, just a vague idea it was from the Cameroon Grasslands and that I liked it. It is during the research phase that I realized it was a highly rare object.
On the comparative image here (from left to right) Heinrich Picht, for the Berlin Ethnographic Museum collected one C 1900 (III C 22449) which is attributed to the Bamum. Hans Caspar Gans collected one C 1911, which he described as "Fo" (Ethnographic Museum of Berlin # III C 20704 a, b), from the Menye group. "Fo" (or "Fon") is in fact the word for "King" in the Cameroon Grasslands, and "Menye" is a familly name.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one (1991 365 a. b), which is described as "Mambila" and was donated by Muensterberger.
The Kunstkamera, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Royal Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, has one donated by Alfred Mansfield who was an administrator in Mamfé (a village located between the Cameroon grasslands, south of Bangwa, and the Upper Cross River region) in 1904-1907. It is described as "Keaka".
Finally, Henri Labouret collected the last one in 1934 and, as with any Labouret's objects, the location is not specific. It says here "Grasslands" (Musée du Quai Branly Inv 71 1934 171 6161-2)
The present work differs in form from those presented above. But the three feet, the very specific pattern on the sides and the lid handle design makes me attribute it to that "family" of objects.
From the museum references above I have no information about the use of this large vessel. The interior is dry and do not presents traces of storing liquid or grease. All I know is that the present piece, to my knowledge, is the only one in private hands. The container is in good condition for its age and there is just an age crack on the lid, as seen on the photos.
A true collector piece.
H: 60 cm (23 1/2 inches)
Price : 2800 Euros enquiry