Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Throne from the Grassfields: History, Gifts, and Authenticity in the Bamum Kingdom, 1880-1929
Authors: Fine, Jonathan David MacLachlan
Advisors: Okeke-Agulu, Chika
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Bamum
Mandu Yenu
Subjects: Art history
African history
African studies
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the history and meanings of the spectacular beaded thrones with two figures from the Bamum kingdom in Cameroon. It shows how the thrones have been used as a focus for politics in the Bamum kingdom since the nineteenth century and during the subsequent periods of German and French colonial rule. The oldest of the thrones has been displayed for more than a century in the State Museums of Berlin and is one of the most recognizable works of historical art from Africa. This dissertation argues that the throne in Berlin may have been made in the first half of the nineteenth century under the Bamum monarch Mbuombuo or around 1880 during the reign of his grandson, Nsangu. Nsangu used the throne to legitimate himself by linking himself visually to Mbuombuo and the achievements of his reign. At the height of German colonial rule in 1908, Nsangu’s son, Njoya, gave the throne to German Emperor Wilhelm II. Njoya also commissioned a second throne, which he used in place of the one he gave to Wilhelm. This dissertation argues that Njoya and the German authorities sought to frame the gift to create and impose different understandings of their relationship. By making the gift, Njoya sought to reinforce his position and his ongoing relationship with the German Empire. German colonial authorities, however, understood the gift as a sign of Njoya’s submission to colonial rule. During the French colonial era, which began at the end of World War I, colonial administrators stripped Njoya of much of his authority. His relative, Mosé Yeyap, sought to fill the resulting power vacuum by transforming similar thrones into broader symbols of Bamum identity, rather than royal power, and by defining a historicist style of Bamum art that conformed to European and American collectors’ desire for “authentic” African art.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2022-04-08. For more information contact the Mudd Manuscript Library.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.