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Male Figure from the Top of a Lefem Society Staff

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.

Ateu Atsa (ca. 1840-1910) or workshop
Bangwa peoples, Cameroon
Male Figure from the Top of a Lefem Society Staff
Late 19th or early 20th century
Wood, incrustation
H. 20 ¼ in. (51.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, in part purchase, gift in part Harrison Eiteljorg, Ernst Anspach, 82.71