This paper will describe the funeral figures of three specific peoples: Cameroon Grasslands, the Fang and Kota. One of the most striking of funerary figures uses by the people of the Cameroon Grasslands is the Nkock: a mask representing the secret society Kwifon, which usually appears at death ceremonies. One Nkock, depicted at the death ceremony of the King of Oku, is pictures as a mask which is entirely black and accompanied by a black costume. The mask itself is carved from wood, with a gorey, red-painted mouth and eyes (Koloss, n.p.). These secret societies represent the people and “traditionally executed regulatory functions and balanced the power of the ruler” (Geary, p. 6); the masquerades in which masks such as the Nkock appear reenact the lives of the people, suggesting that the Nkock, when he appears, represents an assertion of order in the face of the disorder represented by the presence of death.
The Fang produce funerary figures in the form of reliquary guardians, which accompany reliquaries of ancestor’s bones. These figures are carved from hard woods, and decorated with brass or copper, as well as “crowns of plumes” (Siroto, p. 4). The figures are human and symmetrical, with a prominent coiffure (Siroto, p. 3). For the Fang people, these figures represent the importance of the ancestors, and the vital role they fulfil in the present lives of the people.
For the Kota, funerary figures also take the form of reliquary statues which reference and honour the dead, and even serve as a means of communication with them (Andrault, p. 3). One such type of reliquary figure is the Obamba style, which is in the form of a stylised representation of a human face, with an oval face and a crest. They are carved from wood, and decorated with copper or brass (Andrault, pp. 2-3). For the people who make and use these masks, they represent continuity between the dead and the living, the past and the present.
- Andrault, Jean-Claude. “Kota.” Course Material.
- Geary, Christraud M. “Bamileke and Related Peoples.” Course Material.
- Koloss, Hans-Joachim. “Life in the Cameroon Grasslands.” Retrieved from: https://africa.uima.uiowa.edu/topic-essays/show/12?start=6. Course Material.
- Siroto, Leon. “Fang.” Course Material.