Bamileke Beaded Figure from Cameroon
Most Bamileke statues represent the Fon (chief). Masks are also carved. Beautiful beadwork associated with the Fon is common throughout this area. The art styles of the peoples in the Grasslands are very hard to differentiate due to the complex and recent migration patterns that are typical of the region.
The Bamileke are part of a larger cultural area known collectively as the Cameroon Grasslands. Within the Bamileke complex there are numerous smaller peoples who are loosely affiliated and share many similarities while retaining separate identities. The Bamileke originally came from an area to the north known as Mbam, which is today occupied by the Tikar. Fulani traders moving steadily southwards into Cameroon in the 17th century forced the southern drift of most of the Bamileke, although some elected to stay behind and live under the control of the invaders. They traveled through the area now occupied by the Bamum where many Bamileke remained and intermarried. Eventually, the majority settled in scattered villages to the south of Bamum territory.