Pair of Mouthblown Glass Domes with Fine Beaded Ceremonial Heads and Flutes, Cameroon Grasslands.
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Beads and royalty are closely linked in Africa. For centuries, African rulers accumulated valuable, locally made and imported beads. They also controlled their distribution and use. The ownership of large quantities of beads, the variety of exquisite, beaded clothing and regalia, and the right to display colourful beaded designs distinguish rulers from the rest of the populace. During public ceremonies, kings wear spectacular arrays of beadwork. They dazzle their subjects with the splendid colours and the unique designs of their royal costumes and regalia.
In West and Central Africa, kings bring to their court's male artists who create masterpieces of beaded clothing, adornment, and bead embroidered regalia. Artists often vary the shapes of objects, apply different beaded designs, and follow different colour schemes.
Rulers of the kingdoms in the Grassfields region of Cameroon possess lavishly beaded works of art, ranging from beaded sculpture to clothing, adornment, and regalia (Harter 1986; Northern 1975).
The history of Grassland beadwork is fascinating. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, beads were extremely rare. The small seed beads (memmi) had to be imported from the Cameroon coast and Nigeria through middlemen. Cowrie shells (mbuum) were equally sought after and became a currency and an artistic medium. To this day, the term for money is mbuum. The Kings controlled both distribution and use of beads and cowrie shells. Toward the turn of the century, the bead and cowrie shell supply increased; this led to a proliferation of beadwork.
The Grassland Kings also exerted control over the bead workers and they worked exclusively for him and the palace elite (Geary 1983,87). In addition to large, beaded sculptures and masks, the artists created intricate headdresses and bead embroidered clothing, belts, necklaces, bracelets and flywhisks, that formed part of each king's regalia.
A Cameroon World Marshall and Caroline Mount Collection - QCC Art Gallery
Dimensions 59cm x 30cm