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Myths, legends and history

Historic bases for artistic creation. Foundation of Bandjoun and the first reigns

A certain number of plastic productions are found illustrating the foundation of Bandjoun, the emergence of the kingdom and the first reigns.

These are important and sacred works that are indispensable for cultural continuity, the performance of royal and noble rites in order to respect the authority of the king and the notables, etc.
 
 

The objects left by the founder Notuégom are the most significant. The oldest specimens date back to this period, surprising plastic creations such as the cattle masks with harmonious forms and above all the masks incorrectly called " batcham" (of the msop warrior society), which are evidence of one of the most imaginative sculptural conceptions in the whole of Africa.

The Grassland, to which Bandjoun belongs, has been inhabited for 2500 years. During a long and obscure period which ended in the 14 th century, the basic institutions of this part of Cameroon were devised. It was from the 14 th century DC and perhaps even earlier, that the civilisation of the “hunter-kings” was developed, marked by the foundation of the majority of the kingdoms (some were to appear in the 17 th and 18 th centuries like Bandjoun). The history and the myths surrounding the foundation of these kingdoms involve the struggle to obtain the adornments and symbols of power. It was thus that by taking possession of the mysterious ritual bracelet of the chief Foadibu that the immigrant hunter prince Notuégom became king and created Bandjoun.

Following a dispute over a division of palm oil and a plan of succession, he had fled from the chefferie of Nepèguè (the heart of the present Baleng) accompanied by some supporters. He then settled down as a hunter in the south-east, in a region rich in game and divided into about ten minor rival and independent chefferies such as Dibu, Mouwè, Moudjo, Soun, Deng Mbem, etc.
Notuégom succeded in winning over the trust of the powerful Foadibu, the chief of Dibu, (the most important in the sector) and married his daughter. One day, the hunter sent some game to his father-in-law. The monarch returned the bag filled with vegetables to his son-in-law through his daughter. Strangely, the copper bracelet, the emblem of power and symbol of the royalty of Foadibu, was in the bag, wither because it had fallen in by mistake or because it had been put there inadvertently or even hidden by the princess for the benefit of her husband, etc. It was thus that Notuégom found himself adorned with the famous object and was immediately acknowledged as fo .

 
    Vase with earth brought from Nepèguè (present-day Baleng) by Notuégom, the founder of Bandjoun, 17 th century.

 

Notuégom expanded his minor chefferie by conquering various petty kings of the neighbourhood, welcoming strangers from elsewhere and buying slaves. This is where the name of Bandjoun comes from, a deformation of Padjo ( pe - people; djo - buy, by extension the land of people who buy). The land founded by people originally from Nepèguè, Leng (Baleng) was to be called Leng-Djo. It was at the head of a chefferie in full expansion that Notuégom, an old man, disappeared in a mysterious way. According to certain sources, he drowned in an oxbow lake in Pu'muneyeh, one of the most sacred places of worship of Bandjoun. The founder’s immediate successors endeavoured to extend the territory of Bandjoun and the royal power, to establish the political, social and religious institutions by cunning and force and to develop the arts. The most renowned sovereigns include the great organiser Dyugnechom, the king with the iron fist who gave Bandjoun its fundamental characteristics.

Pu'muneyeh    

The prestige and the power of the kings and notables of Bandjoun in the 19 th century and at the dawn of the 20 th century were materialised by several objects including remarkable thrones, valuable beads, ceremonial calabashes, panther skins and elephant tusks. If the 19 th century on the one hand is marked by the great territorial and economic expansion of Bandjoun, the 20 th century on the other hand is characterised by the arrival of the Europeans (1904), colonisation (1905), the introduction of Western cultures and Christianity, all accompanied by important changes. Bandjoun society and civilisation simultaneous adopt nowadays attitudes which are apparently contradictory: fidelity to ancestral values and the aptitude for progress, concern about perpetuity and the desire for renewal.

Talented artists celebrated the pomp of the court of the Bandjoun kings, the grandeur and the power of its monarchs, the solidity of its institutions in the production of magnificent thrones, impressive marriages of forms and colours.

     
     
     
     

Tabouret royal (kuo fo)

     
     
     
 
     

Peau de panthère (gwop nom gwi)

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