Bamum (Bamoum, Bamoun, Banun, Mom, Mum), Cameroon
Royal smoking pipe. There are about 80,000 Bamum people. The art of Bamum is in a great part the art of a royal court that had a complex protocol and numerous rituals. The king and his court is a focal point of the Bamum, and exert powerful influence upon the development of the plastic art that tends towards dramatization, power and sumptuous luxury. The size and decoration of pipes were regulated by a strict code, according to the owners rank and wealth. The animal motif including the elephant head, the crocodile and many lizards suggests that the owner belonged to a secret society or had totemic links with the animal represented. The pipes like this one were too large to use and were, therefore, prestige objects, sometimes wedding presents. The king had to smoke the pipe not only in the palace, but when he traveled among the people, because the smoking of it was regarded as a rite that would make both the fields and the women fertile.
Material: African bronze
Size: H. 25 ½, W. 6 ½, D. 11