Bamileke or Bamum people, Cameroon Grasslands
19th to early 20th Century
The Nkak drum is unique to the Cameroon Grassfields. It is a big drum mounted on a circular base and supported by caryatid or animal symbols. Here the drum is supported by four, alternating male and female, grimacing figures.
According to Louis Perrois and Jean-Paul Notué ("Rois et sculpteurs de l'ouest Cameroun. La panthère et la mygale", Karthala-Orstom, 1997), these Nkak drums (the name is probably an onomatopoeia) are female and were used by the Ku'ngang, a special group of high rank initiates. The Ku'ngang is a brotherhood between the world of the living and the word of the dead, the visible and the invisible, the world of humans and the cosmos. This could explain the gargoyle like aspect of the four figures supporting the present drum.
Dr Pierre Harter documented a number of these drums on the field (see illutrations below, except the two first photos from the Museum of Berlin collection, c 1909) and it is interesting to see the variation in size and decoration.
These drums are usually in museum collections, the two most famous ones being at the Ethnographic Museum of Berlin (III C 30682) and at the Louvre Pavillon des Sessions
(Musée du Quai Branly Inv 70.2005.21.1 ex. René Rasmussen, ex Jacques Kerchache)
We are glad to offer this great example which we found in a French musical instruments collection. It is in good condition for its age, with a great weathered patina, and we date it from the 19th to very early 20th century.
H: 111 cm (43 3/4 inches)
Price : enquiry