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Figure from Lefem Society Staff

Culture Bangwa
Artist Ateu Atsa (Cameroonian, 1840–1910)
Title Figure from Lefem Society Staff
Date Late 19th–early 20th century
Medium Wood and incrustation
Dimensions Object: 20 1/4 × 7 × 6 1/4 in. (51.4 × 17.8 × 15.9 cm)
Overall: 20 1/4 × 7 × 6 1/4 in. (51.4 × 17.8 × 15.9 cm)
Credit Line In part purchase, Gift in part Harrison Eiteljorg, Ruth and Ernst Anspach, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 82.71

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About this Work

This figure was acquired by the museum as a Bangwa commemorative figure, and indeed its appearance is similar to that figure type, which serves as a visual record of leadership succession and as a part of ritual occasions, such as the installations and funerals of kings and ceremonies honoring royal ancestors.

However, research since indicates that the figure was instead the finial of a staff for the Lefem Society, an association formed by nobles who conduct rituals for the benefit of the community and kingdom and also discuss politics with each other. Such staffs are placed at the entrance to the society’s sacred grove as indicators to non-members that they should not enter.

This figure has been tentatively attributed to the carver known as Ateu Atsa, a Bangwa artist, on the basis of stylistic similarities with other objects he is believed to have made.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Figure from Lefem Society Staff | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.