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5 Places to Look For African Art in Cameroon

Anyone who appreciates Makossa or the harmonies of Bikutsi will likely associate these sounds with Cameroon. These vibrant musical styles once dominated the African airwaves, transcending borders and captivating audiences worldwide. But Cameroon's rich varieties extend far beyond its world-renowned music and its legendary football team.


This central African nation also boasts a remarkable artistic heritage, with ancient and indigenous practices that have continued to captivate the continent for centuries.


Known as "Africa in miniature" for its incredibly diverse geology, languages, and cultures, Cameroon boasts a rich artistic heritage.


From intricate beadwork and sculptures to stunning textiles, woodwork, and clay creations, Cameroonian craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. Buckle up because we're about to explore some of the best places to discover these artistic treasures.


 

1. National Museum of Yaoundé: A Legacy in Stone


The National Museum of Yaoundé (Le Musee National de Yaoundé) is one of the venerable art hubs in Cameroon. Established in 1972, the museum is housed in the former presidential residence. Its exquisite architecture, ornate floors, and extensive art collection have drawn visitors from both Cameroon and around the world, making it a vital tourist attraction. It cuts a wide swath of bronze statues that bedecks the exterior and interior aesthetics from the front court to the inside, and back yard. The interior is enriched with a collection of wooden, bronze, pictorial, and symbolic antiques sourced from memorable expeditions. These include musical instruments, kitchen utensils, and artifacts associated with traditional nobility. Of particular note is the ngii, a rare tribal wooden mask, while the walls are adorned with portraits of notable figures who have played significant roles in Cameroon's political and cultural history since gaining independence.




Musée national du Cameroun
Musée national du Cameroun


 

2. Fon's Palace: A Kingdom's Enduring Legacy


For over 700 years and counting, the fon's (local chief's) palace houses the monarchs of Bafut dynasty. Located in the north of Bamenda, the Tikar community of Bafut is a large settlement of Cameroonians, traditionally recognized as the most powerful of the Grassfields kingdoms. 

The opulent palace prides itself on enormous classical structures from ancient times. The compound is home to numerous culturally significant sites, such as the revered Achum building—a shrine accessible solely to the Fon and his trusted advisors. It also encompasses the residences of the Fon's extensive family, numbering over 150 wives. Prominently positioned at the entrance of the palace compound are several commemorative (precious) stones; these serve as the final resting places for nobles who passed away in service to the Fon. The Takombang House also graces the compound, safeguarding the Fon’s ceremonial drum—a symbol of authority and tradition, that resonates with the history of the kingdom. There's also a palace museum which was previously a colonial building erected above the palace, culturally furnished with native carvings, traditional costumes and revered weapons.



 


3. Doual'art: Where Art Meets Urban Transformation


More than 80 works of public art and art-focused events have been rendered in different sites and neighbourhoods of Cameroon by Doual'art Contemporary Art Centre. Described as an "organisation that has revolutionized the art scene in Cameroon" by the Prince Claus Fund, the Doual'art Contemporary Art Centre is a public art-leading space established as a non-profit by Marilyn Douala Bell and Didier Schaub in 1992. Doual’art spearheads the creation of contemporary art by Cameroonian artists, aimed at catalyzing urban transformation. Its exhibition space showcases an extensive collection of works from Cameroon’s finest established and emerging artists.



Doual'art Contemporary Art Centre
Doual'art Contemporary Art Centre

 

4. Bandjoun Station: Where Art Meets Community


Designed by Issofou Mbouombouo, the architectural structure of the Historic Museum of the Bamoun Sultanate located in Foumban, Cameroon is a mystical and astonishing work of art in itself. Its visual mien connotes the mascot of the people of Bamoun - a double-headed snake, a spider, and a double-mounted bell-like gong. Completed in 2013, the structure was commissioned as an expansion project by the Sultan of Bamoun after the palace museum which hosts over 12,500 artifacts could no longer accommodate more pieces. Every aspect of the museum, from the conceptualization to creation and execution reeks to validate the heritage and efficacy of Bamoun's pedigree.



Bandjoun station, Cameroon, front 2007
Bandjoun station, Cameroon, front 2007

 

5. Bwo Art Gallery: A Platform for Emerging Talents


Residing in Cameroon's largest city, Douala, Bwo Art Gallery officially extended welcome arms to the public in September 2023. Anterior to its establishment by Brice Yonkeu and Noelle Mukete-Elhalaby, the duo headed an Atlanta-based contemporary African art firm, Bwo Art, as co-founders. Thus, It can be said with confidence that they both have a great allegiance to African contemporary art. 


Bwo Art Gallery's headshot is targeted towards promising and emerging artists from Africa whose unique artistic craft is worth giving a viable platform. Since its inception, the gallery has conducted three exhibitions stemming from both solo and group shows. The gallery is also gearing up to host a solo exhibition of new paintings by Paris-based Congolese-born artist Merveille Kelekele Kelekele come May 11, 2024. 



Installation view of artist Sesse Elangwe’s “The Defiant Ones” exhibition. Courtesy of Bwo Art Gallery.
Installation view of artist Sesse Elangwe’s “The Defiant Ones” exhibition. Courtesy of Bwo Art Gallery.

 


Travel to one of these destinations, and African art comes alive. It's not just about admiring objects on display; it's about experiencing them at the source, where their cultural significance thrives. You won't be a passive observer; you'll be immersed in the art's true essence.

 


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5 Places to Look For African Art in Cameroon

April 29, 2024

Fredrick Favour

4 min read

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