Smoking and Drinking

By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Cameroon; Bamum peoples


Wood, brass, ceramic

L. 57.15 cm (22 ½”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.42

Among the Bamum, Bamileke, and other highly stratified states in Cameroon and southern Nigeria, pipes made of wood, cast brass, clay, and ivory are made in great stylistic variety. Elaborate pipes incorporating human figures, animals, and complex geometric motifs marked their owners' high status, while men and women of common status smoked small, undecorated clay pipes. Kings and members of royal families owned pipes whose stems were so long that servants and attendants were appointed to light the pipe and manipulate the hole beneath the bowl that regulates airflow. The largest and most ornate of these pipes moved beyond function, used solely as display objects and never smoked. The photo of a Grasslands king show him surrounded by items of status from his treasury.

The late King of Wimbum, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.