The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Life in the Cameroon Grasslands

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

A Nokang at a death ceremony in the Palace of Oku, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.

Nokangse are the most basic and important property of all Kwifon societies and are therefore well known everywhere in the Cameroon Grasslands. Nokangse are not “real” masks: the faces of the Kwifon-members are only hidden by clay. On the body, they wear leaves, plants, furs, leathers and everything that is possible. Nokangse appear in great numbers—thirty and more—at death ceremonies, and then walk in a procession around the dancing field. Nowadays, Nokangse behave as fools and beggars who have the right to make fun of everybody and everything. In the past, however, they were spies and tried to find out what the enemies were planning. To the Nokangse belong eight human figures, which are only shown at the death ceremony for a king. Otherwise, they use only two of them—they play with them. Nevertheless, they are among the most important objects of Kwifon.