The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Life in the Cameroon Grasslands

by Hans-Joachim Koloss (1938 - 2013)
Formerly Museum für Völkerkunde

The royal palace in Oku with the king and notables during a ceremony, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss. 

Everywhere in the Cameroon Grasslands, the palaces are not only the biggest and most important buildings, but also the political and religious center of the kingdom. One part of the palace in Oku—it consists of more than 50 houses—belongs to the king, another to his wives. The third part is the compound of Kwifon, the mighty secret society that, together with the king, formed the traditional government in olden times. The photograph shows the most important building where the king receives his guests. Its pillars are adorned with human and animal figures, which have, however, no religious or magical significance—they “only” demonstrate the unique and outstanding position of the king. This building is one of the last examples for the famous royal architecture of the Cameroon Grasslands. Nowadays, nearly all palaces of this area are built with bricks and have a zinc roof. This is also true for the other houses of the Palace of Oku.