Women and Political Power

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Cameroon; Bangwa peoples

Royal figure


H. 57 cm (22.5")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.529

The representation of a king's wives were among the array of prestige items in a Bangwa king's treasury, which also included pipes, stools, drinking horns, calabashes, necklaces, bracelets, and the figures of royal ancestors. The objects were kept within the palace and displayed during leadership ceremonies, including the funerals of kings, enthronements, and annual festivals. Among the neighboring Bamileke, the power of a newly installed king was not operative until one of his wives had borne him a healthy child. The birth bore proof to the king's virility and his capacity to continue the royal bloodline. The wife, in turn, was commemorated for her role with a large sculpture.

Enthronment of Jinabo II, the late King of Kom, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.