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Bamileke monkey


A male Bamileke figure with a charge from Gaëtan Schoonbroodt collection.

The Bamileke people of Cameroon are known for their exquisite woodcarvings, including sculptures of animals, humans, and other objects. One of the most popular forms of Bamileke art is the monkey sculpture, which is often used in traditional rituals and ceremonies.

A typical Bamileke monkey sculpture is carved from a single piece of wood and stands around 12-18 inches tall.  This monkey is a bit smaller at 11,6 inch  ( or 27 cm) The monkey is depicted in a naturalistic pose, with its hands on his chest and seated  on his legs and its tail curled around its body.  Between his legs you can clearly see it is a male monkey. The facial features are carefully carved and include realistic eyes, and an open mouth.

The back of the sculpture has an opening that can be used to insert a charge or other objects. This opening is typically covered by a removable panel or lid, it is decorated with a metalic foil that some damages, but als a clearly well oxidized wood, a a good sign of it's old age.

The charge that is inserted into the sculpture may be a symbolic object, such as a sacred herb or a small piece of jewelry, or it may be a practical object, such as a small amount of money or medicine. The figure is also holowed out from under the figure. The purpose of the charge is to activate the sculpture and give it power, which is believed to be transferred to the person who owns or uses it.

Overall, the Bamileke monkey sculpture is a beautiful and meaningful work of art that reflects the rich cultural traditions of the people of Cameroon.

P¨rovenance: Gaëtan Schoonbroodt collection. Verviers.

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