Many small kingdoms dot the Grasslands of western Cameroon, each historically ruled by a king, or fon, assisted by a complex hierarchy of titleholders and retainers. Much of the rich artistic production in the form of spiritual, ritual, and prestige objects from this area is traditionally connected with these leaders and their courts. This bowl figure, once part of the treasury of the fon of the Kom kingdom, was kept at the palace in Laikom, the capital, and most likely displayed in the king’s audience hall, where it held kola nuts and palm wine for guests as signs of hospitality. As befitting its association with royalty, this bowl is decorated with imported glass beads: the cylindrical blue beads that dominate this piece were especially prized.
Kom kingdom, Cameroon
Early 20th century
Wood, glass beads, fiber, iron, raffia cloth
H. 36 in. (91.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 68.190