MET acquires Bangwa royal figure...
by Entwistle on 10 April 2016
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has received an important Bangwa royal figure, lefem, as a gift from a private American collection and formerly acquired from Entwistle
This important and sensitive sculpture of a royal figure from the Bangwa chiefdom of the Bamileke peoples of Cameroon, strives for and achieves a remarkable degree of realism. In addition to illustrating the regalia of chiefly position - the knotted chief's cap (a close-fitting skullcap made from woven plantain fibres), a necklace of royal beads worn in a series of torques around the shoulders and neck, the calabash and the ivory bangles which adorn each wrist - the sculptor has sought to embody the qualities of kingship - dignity, poise and regal authority
The lefem figures are primarily portraits of ancestors; they embellish the Bangwa ancestor cult and act as concentrated symbols of a dynasty's power and history
In these representations is seen both the serene power of the chiefs and, in elaborate detailing of ornament and cloth, their great wealth