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Object Name: Elephant head crest
Cultural Group: Oku or Babanki peoples
Place of Origin: Northwestern Grassfields, Cameroon
Date/Era: 19th century
Dimensions: L: 118.0 cm, W: 46.0 cm, H: 25.5 cm (L: 46.4 in, W: 18.1 in, H: 10.0 in)
Medium/Materials: Wood, copper, alloy, iron alloy
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Mary-Louise Fantel in memory of Ernest Fantel.
Accession Number: X2006.4.1
Kingdoms of the Cameroon Grassfields have exercised social control through regulatory societies ever since the precolonial period. Among the most important of these is the Kwifoyn society. Ranked lineages, all of which owned and performed with masks, have also had their own regulatory societies. Members use a variety of zoomorphic masks to convey authority and to symbolize their powerful positions in performances. These masks take the form of animals such as a buffalo, a hybrid bovine-human, and an elephant, which are typically associated with royalty. The bird mask was worn with a dramatic feather robe and sat atop the head of the wearer, whose face was concealed by a fiber covering.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.