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Bamileke Elephant masks Cameroon for sale in Hampton, VA

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Elephants are the world's most commanding land creatures, unsurpassed in grandeur and power. Thus elephant masks, while rare in Africa,
are fully appropriate symbols of important leaders or, at least, their respected deputies or messengers. The societies that use these masks
in fact act as agents of chiefs' control and as formal royal emissaries. Elephant societies that originated in Bamileke and spread elsewhere
in the Grasslands consist of three graded ranks attained by wealth. These elephant masks, signifying kingship and wealth, were worn by the
powerful members of the Kuosi regulatory society, which included members of royalty, wealthy title holders, and ranking warriors of the
Bandjoun kingdom of western Cameroon.

In the past, payment of a slave or a leopard pelt to the chief who owns the society was necessary for entrance to the highest rank. The
glass beads used on earlier masks were nineteenth-century trade beads of Venetian or Czechoslovakian manufacture, used as well in
exchange for slaves. Elephant mask costumes were thus called "things of money" since their beads were both objects and symbols of wealth.

Black denotes the relationship between the living and the dead. White refers to the ancestors and potent medicines. Red symbolizes life,
women, and the institution of kingship. The dominant triangle designs on both masks represent leopard spots, the leopard being a royal
symbol of power and mastery like the elephant. The members of the Kuosi regulatory society belonged to the royal court and enforced the
laws of the kingdom in all spheres of life. The society gathered together during funeral ceremonies of its members and for public
celebrations of kingship to display the Bandjoun kingdom's power and wealth.



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