The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Life in the Cameroon Grasslands

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

A carver in Ngashie Oku, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.


Everywhere in the Cameroon Grasslands you will find men who are able to carve stools and other objects for daily use. For the carving of masks and royal objects there are, however, specialists. Such people normally have undergone a more or less structured education with a master, which can last about three years. Masters are not found in all kingdoms by any means; the only centers for carving are Kom, Big Babanki, Babanki Tungo and Oku. This young carver from the village of Ngashie is working on a basket mask. For finishing it, he needs about four days. The blackening is done with fire and glowing iron rods. As non-initiates are not allowed to see the secrets of the jujus even nowadays, the carving of masks takes place near the juju houses, which are strictly forbidden for all outsiders, especially women.