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Cameroon: Bandjoun chefferie

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Bandjoun chefferie | Cameroon | Africa

[Visited: April 2013]

We were on our way west again, and had wanted to visit the chefferie of Bandjoun before heading out for the Ring Road, but since transportation had been blocked because of the elections a few days before, we had postponed our visit. A shared taxi took us for the 15km drive to Bandjoun, and dropped us off right at the entrance of the chefferie. A goat with curly horns was grazing in front of a statue of a sultan, and we walked through the main gate. From here, a lane runs down; on both sides, we saw hut-like structures with traditional grass roofs. Behind them, more modern houses with shiny iron roofs. At the far side, a huge building with grass roof and tens of columns. There was no one around, and we were directed to a building where we found a woman breastfeeding a child. It turned out she was the woman in charge, accepted payment, left the baby behind, locked the door, and took us to the small museum next to a modern building.

Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): The Case at the end of a house-lined lane

The charming woman switched on the lights, and gave us a knowledgeable tour of the museum, telling us about the objects we saw, and about the importance of the iron workers who had been able to make the utensils, instruments, and weapons we saw, giving them a powerful position in society. Haflway our tour, we could hear the baby cry, but the woman calmly said that she had to wait for her mother to finish the tour. Just when we had seen hippo heads, unique thrones, and incredibly big crowns, weighing some 25kg, a powercut had us stand in the dark - the woman just continued talking about what we could not see anymore. We were at the end of the museum anyway, so the woman could get her baby, and give us tour of the Case.

Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Faces carved out of the columns of the Case, the most prominent building of the chefferie

The buildings with the straw roofs we had seen, turned out to be where the representatives of the different provinces of Bandjoun would congregate; the ones behind were all dwellings for the wives of the sultan. The modern building next to the museum actually is the palace of the sultan, while the Case, the big building we were about to enter, is a space where officials gather. A fire had consumed it in 2005 (officially, an accident, but many believe the fire was started by one of the officials of the chefferie to undercut the power of the sultan), and what we were seeing, was therefore a modern remake. Nevertheless, the richly decorated columns were beautiful, depicting actual and former rulers, devils and deities, the pope, animals, and other figures. We stepped inside through the grand door opening, to find a quite modest and dark interior, mostly with big spaces. How different would it look with dignitaries in boubous, I thought. We had seen the main things, and were on our way back to Bafoussam, on the way to leave the province altogether.

Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Carved out entrance gate of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Entrance of the Case with space for the throne, and the carved columns
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Woman carved out of a column in one of the houses of the chefferie
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Carving of a sultan in a colum of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Two heads carved into a column of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Detail of wood carving on one of the columns of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Detail of one of the columns of the Case with a scorpion
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Close-up of the intricate walls of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Sultan statue at the entrance of the chefferie of Bandjoun
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Detail of one of the houses showing the decorations
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): One of the rows of the straw-roofed huts where representatives of the provinces gather
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Row of richly decorated columns of the Case
Picture of Bandjoun chefferie (Cameroon): Modern-day palace of the sultan

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