Mbang (Royal Ancestor Figure)

Fon (Chief)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Like the Bangwa, the Kom of Cameroon are governed by a number of secret societies (including the Kwifon society) and run by a central chief (Fon).

Tradition dictates that each Fon much commission the creation of a large scale figure (known as an effigy throne which is often life-size) in his likeness, and in that of the queen mother (Nafon) and of his first wife. These mbang figures (also called afon-a-kom or ufwu-a-kom meaning 'things of Kom') are used during annual celebrations to pay tribute to past Fon and Nafon ancestors. They are also used during inauguration ceremonies of the new Fon; the new Fon sits on the effigy throne created by his predecessor during the inauguration ceremony.

After the ceremony and when not in use, the effigy thrones are kept in royal shrines along with other scared Kom objects.

Distinguishing Features

  • Made of wood
  • Figure usually covered in cloth embroidered with red glass beads
  • Monumental figure (often life-size)
  • Figure carved nude
  • Standing figure faces forward
  • Copper sheeting sometimes hammered onto surface of face
  • Mpelet headdress depicted (crescent shaped coiffure)
  • Natural hair sometimes attached to carved headdress
  • Neck collar made of glass beads sometimes attached
  • Body rendered as elongated, compact and columnar form
  • Defined pectorals carved on chest
  • Figure depicted holding one of the following:
    • Flute (sometimes beaded) held directly under the chin
    • Buffalo drinking horn
  • Figure extended at knee level by cylindrical stool
    • Thighs form back of stool
    • Stool’s seat is circular platform
    • Stool supported by openwork carving of repeating buffalo heads or full animal depictions

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