Mabuh (Running Headdress)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

The various kingdoms in the North-West Province of the Cameroon Grassfields (including Nso, Kom, Bafut, Baui and Bamenda) are governed by a a central fon (king) and the Kwifon (also called Kwifoyn, Kwi’fo, Ngumba or Ngwerong in Eastern Grassfields) secret society of elected family heads. Together, the fon and the Kwifon are responsible for maintaining the social, political and religious well being of the people.

A number of masks are associated with Kwifon and are used during a variety of social functions including public ceremonies and funerals. The key masks of Kwifon include mabuh, nkock and nokangse.

The mabuh 'running' mask is worn during public events, annual harvest festivals and also worn during funerals of Kwifon members. "It plays the role of a herald, announcing the arrival of Kwifon and driving away non-initiates, and preparing for the arrival of the terrifying nkock mask at the time of funerals or commemorative ceremonies"1. Mabuh is also worn during the arrest, prosecution and execution of criminals.

Distinguishing Features

  • Carved in form of human head
  • Circular projection on forehead (in examples from Wum)
  • Protruding arched eyebrows
  • Sunken eye sockets
  • Bulging almond shaped eyes
  • Flared nostrils
  • Rounded cheeks
  • Wide smiling mouth with teeth exposed
  • NOTE: Fungom (Kom) examples carved in the form of monkey heads

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