AFRICAN TRADITIONS
Art, Crafts, Lifestyles, People

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Craftsmen, Artists, Writers

Mih John Fung is a Cameroonian writer and poet.
Hilarion Wirdzeka Faison is a Cameroonian painter. His medium is acrylic on canvas.
Elcarver Rotimi is a Nigerian painter. His medium is acrylic on paper and batik or pen and ink on paper or canvas.
Fokam Goufo Buhler calls himself a basket maker, even though his creations go beyond tradition.

African Traditions Home Page

People of Africa have a powerful identity. While some renounce their traditions and become "white" Africans, others continue to follow the traditions of their ancestors. Many combine the new with the old, creating a vibrant culture.

The Cameroon Grassland is one of many places where old meets new. The traditional healers work hand-in-hand with medical doctors.

In the past, craftsmen would work for Fons and notables. Today they have a wider audience and their work can be seen all over the world. The indigo dyed cloth, seen behind the stool in the picture on the right, was once reserved for the elite. The meaning of symbols that can be found on this cloth, as well as of those found on masks and other items is being forgotten, though. There are, however, a few works that give us a glimpse of the past. Hans Knopfli, who spent over thirty years in Cameroon, has written several excellent books that feature the people and crafts of the Cameroon Grasslands.


African masks, like the one on the right, bring into focus traditional beliefs. Art does not exist for its own sake, but is an important part of daily life. Certain aspects are reserved for special ceremonies, some have religious connections, and others are for daily use.

One of the traditional crafts in Cameroon is tapestry crochet, which is done by both men and women. You can read more about tapestry crochet at http://www.tapestrycrochet.com/.
Featured Book:
Jean-Paul Notue, Bianca Triaca, Treasures of the Sculptor Kings in Cameroon: Babungo - Memory, Arts and Techniques,   5 Continents (2006).

This book about arts and crafts of Babungo is the result of efforts to preserve cultural heritage of Cameroon. The project included a construction of a museum. Jean Paul Notue was responsible for the training for the museum curators, the fieldwork, and the publication of the results. In addition to an introduction written by Notue the book contains five essays by different authors. The essays describe history and legend of Babungo, functions and meanings of objects (including the meaning of some symbols), artists, life and religion. Several color plates of objects from the museum and the catalogue of the museum pieces complement the book.


Four Museums: Baham, Bandjoun, Mankon, and Babungo offer an "itinerary of the collective memory". Visitors discover the places of history, legend and myth. The museums are located in the highlands of the West and North-West of Cameroon. These are "living" museums. The objects leave the museum whenever their ritual and symbolic role is required by tradition and then they are returned to the museum where their preservation is assured.

Links to other West African artists and craftsmen:
Putuench Ismaila is from a family of bronze casters. His studio is in Foumban, Cameroon.
Wood Carving in Foumban, Cameroon, is not restricted to men only.
Beadworking in Western Cameroon.
Art-Batik in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Fonwouo is a teacher and a basket maker that lives in Dschang, in the Western Province of Cameroon. Fonwouo is a strong supporter of traditional crafts. Some of Fonwouo's baskets are beaded by his wife.

Last updated on November 28, 2009. Maintained by Andrzej Gutek, (www.agutek.com)