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SUMMARY:

Students learn about the Bamum people of Cameroon and the use of symbols in African societies by designing their own palaces.

This lesson is part of a series. Select this text to learn more about the series and how to extend its usefulness.

GOAL: Students learn about the history and culture of the Bamum people of Cameroon.
OBJECTIVES:
  • Students learn to construct architecture.
  • Students learn to work together.
  • Students learn the meaning of African symbols.
  • Students compare and contrast life in the United States with life in Africa.
  • BACKGROUND MATERIAL:
  • The Bamum People of Cameroon
  • 8.0 MB 6 frames/sec video presentation about the Bamum. (high speed connection)
  • 2.3 MB 1 frames/sec video presentation about the Bamum. (low speed connection)
  • Activity 1: Design Your Own Royal Palace
    Individual Activity

    Grades four and above

    The Bamum are a group of people who have lived for centuries in the Grassfields region of western Cameroon. Before European colonialization, the Bamum had their own kingdom; today, they are citizens of the republic of Cameroon.

    The Bamum still have a fon or king, but rather than being a political leader, the Bamum king is now a spiritual leader.

    In 1913, King Njoya of the Bamum ordered construction of a new palace. The new palace brought together elements from all of the king's favorite buildings. He combined the yellow brick of German colonial buildings, the rounded cone-topped coloumns of traditional Bamum buildings and the geometric designs of Islam. Over the doorway he placed a carving of the double-headed snake, an ancient symbol of strength.

    Materials:
    Handout, colored pens or crayons.

    Select this text and choose print from the file menu to print the handout. Use the back button to return to this page.

    Directions:

    AFRICAN SYMBOLS

    Double-headed Serpent/snakes The double-headed serpent reminds the Bamum people of Cameroon that their king once fought his enemies on two fronts and won. The Edo people of Benin City believe that snakes consume and destroy illness.
    Crocodiles The Edo people of Benin City believe that the crocodile symbolizes power. The king or Oba is able to crush opposition like crocodile crushes its prey.
    Roosters The Edo people of Benin City believe that the rooster symbolizes power and authority. The queen mother rules over the king's wives like a rooster rules the hens.
    Chevrons Chevrons symbolize rain or water to the Dogon of Mali.
    Bird To the Edo people of Benin, the bird symbolizes the king's power to overcome false prophets and fortunetellers.
    Stool To the Dogon peoples of Mali, the stool symbolizes dignity and authority.
    Navel The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) believe that the navel is a focus and release point of strong emotions.
    Bared teeth Bared teeth generally symbolize ferocity and aggression
    Round hollow Eyes Round hollow eyes symbolize the ability to project penetrating inner powers.
    Half-closed eyes Half-closed eyes symbolize contemplation.

    Activity 2: Design Your Own Royal Palace
    Group Activity

    Grades four and above

    Materials:
    Paper, colored pens or crayons.

    Select this text and choose print from the file menu to print the handout of the palace. Use the back button to return to this page.

    Directions:

     

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    Material on this page was contibuted by the Field Museum of Natural History.

    Activity developed by Jim Angus.