Tu Ngünga (Funerary Headdress)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

Among the many kingdoms (fondom) of the Cameroon Grassfields, the central fon (chief) and a number of secret societies are responsible for the social rule of each kingdom. The Nsorro military society consists of male members that have killed an enemy of the Bamum fon during a battle and as such are recognised for their bravery and allegiance to the fondom.

This special society makes use of the tu ngünga (also called tugunga or tungunga, meaning 'head for the dance'; tu meaning 'head', ngunga meaning 'dance') headdress during the funerals of deceased Nsorro members, fons and other members of royalty. The headdresses are recently also danced during community festivals and annual nja harvest celebrations. Used to invoke images of deceased fons and their wives, tu ngünga masquerades always dance in male / female pairs with the male headdress represented wearing a Bamum prestige cap and the female headdress represented with an elegant female coiffure.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among all tu ngünga headdresses:

  • Oval-shaped face
  • Arched eyebrows
  • Protruding eyes
  • Flat nose
  • Tall narrow neck

Sub-type variations (Male tu ngünga):

  • Circular cheeks and chin
  • Prominent ears
  • Prestige headdress (sometimes with royal iconography - serpents, spiders)
  • Large bulbous eyes
  • Usually have a square protruding mouth

Sub-type variations (Female tu ngünga):

  • Elegant female coiffure
  • 'V' shaped gap between front teeth
  • Rounded facial features

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