Prestige pipe bowl

Bamum peoples
20th century
more object details

General Description

The introduction of tobacco to sub-Saharan Africa in the 17th century inspired the creation of new prestige objects and leadership rituals. In the highly stratified Bamum Kingdom, which reached its peak in the 19th century, both men and women smoked tobacco in pipes befitting their social status.

This pipe bowl is modeled in the form of a man’s head with puffed cheeks and an openwork headdress with a motif of faces. Although the puffed cheeks can also be found on Bamum masks, they probably give the heavy pipe bowl stability. Originally, the bowl would have had a brass or carved wood stem decorated with colorful beadwork. Though both men and women were potters in Bamum society, the largest and most elaborately decorated pipes were made by male court ceramists for the king (fon) and smoked on important ceremonial occasions “as a visual attribute of royal might.”

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.
  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 94.

Web Resources