The Bandjoun museum
Permanent exhibition
The land and the men
Myths, legends and history
Kingdom and society
Secret societies and religions
Creation
Bandjoun yesterday, today and tomorrow
Itineraries of the collective memory
Information

Artistic creation

Containers

 

In Bandjoun, there exists a wide variety of containers (mainly receptacles, pipes and bags), each for a specific purpose and used both for cooking and for ritual or ceremonial purposes. The receptacles are impressive by their variety of production, styles and the freedom of expression which is shown in the detail of the cut, the decoration, the weaving or the moulding. The seats belonging to the fo and the notables, or which are used in major ceremonies, have been meticulously crafted. They are decorated with geometrical or figurative patterns which are often exuberant.


The most characteristic productions are the clay and wooden receptacles, the basketwork, the pipes, bags and above all the calabashes.
These are the best Bandjoun productions in the field. In general the calabash has a spherical form which in its upper part is prolonged by a cylindrical end.
The neck may sometimes be closed by a sculpted top with an anthropomorphic or zoomorphic design.

The calabash rests on a sculpted support. The set is covered with a fabric on which the artist has skilfully fixed cowries or beads harmoniously creating a pattern. These objects are exhibited during ceremonies, but above all rituals and funerals. There are other varieties of calabashes such as trophy calabashes for wine.

 

     
     
     
   
     

Calebasse perlée (ntù)

Architecture

In Bandjoun, the display of wealth and social status through architecture is mandatory.

Here builders have built with an ingeniousness and remarkable skill all sorts of buildings the forms of which vary according to their use, the social rank of the individual or collective owner and the nature of the decoration.

At the level of the structure, the traditional house (represented by the royal temple-palace chengbundye) includes four walls forming a sort of parallelepiped with a square base and surmounted by a ceiling with a conical (or pyramidal) thatched straw roof. Walls, structures, and ceilings are prefabricated on the ground before being raised and assembled according to an original technique dating back to before the foundation of Bandjoun.
 
    The royal temple-palace of Bandjoun

 

Since the first half of the 20 th century, there has been an evolution in autochthonous architecture. The traditional houses have gradually been replaced by modern houses (sometimes built of concrete) or buildings that combined modern and traditional elements.

The very close relationship between sculpture and architecture is perfectly illustrated by the sculpted pillars and the decorated doorframes bom’dye that adorn the royal buildings, the houses of the major notables and the secret societies.

They can be engraved, sculpted in bas-relief or in haut-relief and in certain cases have openwork of varying degrees.
The nature of the decoration and the number of the pillars and doors making up a building depend on the social role of the individual or group owning the premises.

Door frame and sculpted pillar    

Special importance is given to three categories of buildings amongst those with a symbolic or cultural interest:

the large royal house chengbundyeh, a sacred palace-temple, is the most important, the most respected and the most venerated of the buildings of the kingdom.

the house of the notable cheng is in the same style as the large royal house, but with more modest dimensions and decorations.

The number and the nature of the decorations of the doors and pillars depend on the rank of the notable who is the owner. Today, there are concrete examples that have multiple pyramidal roofs.

the nto, small hut, generally door less, negligible from the aesthetic point of view, is nevertheless the sacred construction par excellence, the home of all the mystical powers and magic forces of the kingdom.

 
    Cheng

     
     
     
   
     

Lintel of a sculpted door frame (te ken dy dye or nensi tentse bomdye)

Statues and furniture

 

Apart from some zoomorphic figures, the statues and statuettes are anthropomorphic. They are generally dynamic, vigorous and expressive. In Bandjoun, the isolated figures or in the round are less plentiful than those in relief compared with the other Grassland kingdoms.

The sculpted beds and seats are exclusively reserved for the fo and the important figures around him. The common seat is made either from stems of raffia palm or of wood. The royal or noble seats are mainly ceremonial thrones with large backs and portable stools which can be associated with the royal tables.

Each category can include several types according to the forms and decorations, which depend on the degree and place in the community of the owner(s). The stools and the thrones of the monarch must be counted amongst the most important symbols of Bandjoun royalty. It is amongst the beaded examples, remarkable for this extraordinary wealth and quality of ornamentation, that some of the works of art of the Grassland are to be found. Certain pieces represent the expression of the sovereignty and of the king himself. The seats have multiple cultural and ceremonial functions in the Bandjoun community.

     
     
 
     

Beaded throne (kuo fo)

Musical instruments

 

Different wooden, metal and ivory musical instruments are used in leisure or in various activities of community life in Bandjoun. A good number of them, belonging to the fo, notables and secret societies, play a liturgical role or give rhythm to songs and dances with processions. Some of these objects (drums, bells etc.) with a sacred nature have been sanctified by sacrificed and magical practices.

In this case, it is sometimes prohibited and dangerous to look at them, especially when they emit sound. Amongst these many musical instruments, the most important in the social and religious life of Bandjoun are the double bells, the flutes, the drums, sometimes richly decorated, the xylophones, the sanzas, the rattles, string instruments and horns.

The Bandjoun use both slit drums and membrane drums.
The slit drums are either modest in dimension used to communicate or animate dancing, or the large drums lam, which are beaten with the hand, of an impressive dimension (they can be up to 5 m) and with figurative patterns at the ends and sometimes on their shaft.

The drum is an object for the cult of great importance. It convenes the meeting of the mkem, the sound and decorations evoking the indications differentiating these associations. A few dozen are used at the royal residence and in the sub-chefferies.

 
    Drum lam of the secret society kom kwosi

The membrane drums, often decorated with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic patterns, can be divided into two groups: the examples with a long shaft and no base, said to be male, and the examples with a squatter shaft, said to be female, nkak.


Players of double bells and drum of the nyeleng society around 1925

The double bell kwifo, made from two tall wrought iron bells joined by a metal handle often embellished with ties, is the most sacred instrument in the Grassland. Each kingdom, like Bandjoun, has a set of five or seven, of different sounds, emitting a rhythm announcing the group or a sort of beaten language.

     
     
     
   
     

Rattles (A1…A3 ) ( mtchoua’a)

Daily life

 

Countless educational principles guide the Bandjoun from childhood to maturity and to death.

Some objects characterising the life cycle (birth, maturity and death) are used in everyday life and/or in different rituals: cooking utensils, adornments, costumes, fabrics, ceremonial objects etc.

As life has changed over time, the plastic productions used have undergone changes. This is why some utensils have disappeared or are becoming extinct.

     
     
   
     

Mortar (cup po’o)

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