Student Interpretation → Jordan Fenton

  • Dance Staff
  • Dance Staff
  • Bridal Walking Stick

Northern Cameroon and Cameroon Grassfields Beadwork

Beaded embellishment in Cameroon enhances the social significance, value and prestige of art forms. The kings of the Bamum and the Bamileke kingdoms of Western Cameroon regulate the ownership of prestigious materials such as beads and exclusively control artistic production. These sumptuary laws, regulating specific dress and prestigious objects to specific social stature, reinforce hierarchical structure directly controlled by the King. The Fali, located in the mountainous regions of Northern Cameroon, do not have a centralized political system, and employ art to encourage the continuum of communal well-being.

The Fali beaded doll is given to a young woman by her fiancè upon their betrothal as a sign of commitment and promise. Additionally, the phallic shaped head is a symbol of fertility, reproduction, and the desire for children. The doll is completely covered and embellished with beads, emphasizing the importance of marriage and procreation within Fali culture.

Beaded Doll (Ham Pilu)

Beaded doll (ham pilu)

Fali People
Cameroon
Doll (ham pilu)
20th Century
Wood, beads, hair, leather
Anonymous gift
2006.2.6

Fali dolls may be made by young boys and given to girls, but more often they are presented by a young man to his fiancée. The dolls are made of corncobs or wood, and are usually adorned with glass beads, iron rings and cowries. The red beads embedded in the long hair recall a red-coating applied to women’s hair for religious rites. After the fiancée receives the doll, she cares for it, carrying it on her back or hip just as she would her firstborn, to signify her commitment to her fiancé and the child they hope to have together.

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