In the morning we headed into the nearby town of Foumban and visited a cultural museum. It was also the home of the local king. The people in the region are known as the Bamun tribe and by all account of their artifacts was historically a very violent culture often going to war with neighboring tribes. Along with the masterful representation of bead work and wood carving were skulls fashioned into drinking cups and something that looked like a large rattle made with jaw bones , all “trophies” of victories on the battlefield. I really would have liked to photograph the artifacts but no photography was allowed inside.
They had a known line of lineage dating back to the 1300s and one of the most famous kings had over 600 wives! He was also a great inventor, creating a machine to ground corn into flower and even creating a written language, something the Bamun had not had prior to him. He then went on to author many books. One of note was a two volume account of the Art of Love, with so many wives I’m sure he was an expert. While to a western eye this may seem strange, one thing Jordyn and I noticed that showed a great deal of forward thinking was his creation of retirement plans for his servants and army so if they worked well for him they would be cared for in their old age.
We then went on to a large market that had all different sections for textiles, produce, poultry, meats, and even pharmacy items. The textile section was interesting, our guide explained you could by some fabric then take it to a seamstress to have her make some “dresses” (clothes of any kind are called dresses). We chose not to participate in that activity because the antique pedal activated Singer sewing machines would have meant the day would have been spent waiting for its completion.
We then headed to the artisan quarter, with a main road lined with small shops. The first stop was at a metalsmith, and we were shown the small kiln in which the metal is worked.
On to the woodcarvers, creating masks, reliefs, and small sculptures. It’s great to see original art being made right here, we definitely bought a few things for the display. We then stopped at a small monastery that grows and roasts its own coffee. Ben mentioned the coffee plants looked really well tended. They sell coffee beans that are pure Coffea arabica, and also a blend of arabica and robusta.
We continued to head west, leaving Koutaba and the Bamun region, and entering the Bamileke region, another strong tribe in this area. We made our way to Dschang, home to a large university and a young population. Here, we stopped at two ethnographic museums. The first was an actual compound of a king, and the main building was very large and dome-shaped with a thick grass roof. Large totemic poles lined the outside, with unique carvings on each.
The second museum was much larger and had a more refined collection of artifacts, with interpretive signs in both English and French. It had a wide overview of the tribes in this region, and went back hundreds of years into the history of each, noting their architecture, traditions, and culture.