Life in the Cameroon Grasslands

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

The “bad" juju Samba at a death ceremony in Mboh Oku, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.

 

The most important and also the most feared masks in the Cameroon Grasslands are the “bad” jujus. These are single masks, which were activated through dangerous “medicines.” It is the function of these masks to detect and destroy witches, though they also appear at death ceremonies for their own dead members. The “bad” jujus normally do not wear fine carved headpieces for which the Cameroon Grasslands are famous, but only feather caps made of textiles and other materials. They are not considered “beautiful” at all, but on the contrary are repulsive and dangerous. The photograph shows Samba, a mask, which was used in olden times in military expeditions. It is well known above all in the eastern Grasslands. “Bad” jujus are often unpredictable and even their own members must be cautious, as the picture proves.