A BABANKI-TUNGO TRIBE WOOD CHIEF'S 'BATS' STOOL
Cameroon grasslands, late 19th/early 20th century
Of circular form, openwork carved with bat motif supporting a plain seat.
H. 45 / Diam. 42.5 cm
The fertile and hilly landscape of South-West Cameroon with its numerous small kingdoms, chiefdoms and independent villages produced not only the most splendid thrones and stools in African art but many outstanding achievements in the area of figurative art such as statues, masks, reliëfs, figural door frames, architectural carved columns with human and animal figures and also smaller items as drums, food bowls, pipes, etc. As in the present stool, the figurative decoration often is of animals that play a role in the local mythology; bats symbolize wisdom, spiders divinatory knowledge, snakes the healing power of medicine, elephants royal strength and buffaloes force. The art and architecture of this region moreover reflect a social structure imbued with notions of courtly prestige. Royal thrones and stools are particular prominent political symbols and only rulers could sit on a seat depicting humans or animals. When travelling, rulers used easy to carry stools as the present one and they also frequently gave them as gifts to loyal chiefs.