Amidst the broad spectrum of sculptures for which the Bamileke people of the Cameroon Grassfields are known, figurative, three- dimensional free-standing houseposts are a regular feature of architectural art. Houseposts such as this one supported the roof of an open veranda attached to the Chief’s residence, the centre of the chiefdom. This was a traditional building of raffia palmrib construction looking upon the chiefdom’s main market, the major point of trade transactions for the economic welfare of the chiefdom. The posts’ broad exposure to the local community was deliberately planned to visually demonstrate and reinforce the values of successful communal living with their figural representations. Accordingly, houseposts display an array of characters important to the chiefdom: chiefs (or fons) representing secular and priestly authority; their nursing and/or pregnant wives maintaining the royal lineage; mighty royal alter ego animals; and finally, celebrating the heroism of warfare, guns and trophy heads. This type of sculpture is public art in the service of the power and might of the chiefdom.
Two of these themes are singled out in this example: the fierce warrior with gun, top and bottom, and the eternal nursing female. The super-imposed figures each stand upon the heads, rather than the shoulders, of the one below; they are unadorned with strong bodies and in their stark nudity—aside from the male loincloths—carry a ferocious expression that is made ever more vivid by four wide open mouths (uncannily reminiscent of Munch's Scream), a frequent feature of Bamileke housepost sculpture. The two guns being held diagonally in opposite directions contribute to a sense of dynamism in this free-wheeling uninhibited vision of the human figure which at times may defy the laws of human anatomy. In the architectural repertoire, figures of this exuberant style are known from a broad swath of small and large chiefdoms between Bandjoun and Bafussam in central Bamileke country.
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