Lot: 220

Rare power figure "enok ateng"

Cameroon, Kaka

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich, 6 December 1986, Lot 330
German Private Collection
Dorotheum, Vienna, 26 May 2015, Lot 93
Philippe Laeremans, Brussels, Belgium (Bruneaf 2016)
Galerie Lucas Ratton, Paris, France (2019)
H: 16.1 inch 5000 EUR / 10000 EUR

wood, encrusted sacrificial patina, base

The term Kaka is a name given to a cluster of peoples living in settlements south of the Donga River in Cameroon. Among them are the Mbaw (Ntem), Mbem, Mfumte, and Yamba.

Little is known about the figurative sculpture of the Kaka. The little that we do know is based on observations by Hans-Joachim Koloss, who carried out field research in this area in the 1980s.

Koloss reported that local healers used "medicine" (or "power") figures known as "enok ateng" which means "fighting alone". He notes that these figures were often created to aid this process by helping to defend against evil forces.

The healer who commissioned a new figure from a local carver instructed: "it must be straight and have natural proportions, and it must have eyes and ears to see and hear. It need not be beautiful, instead it should be fearsome".

The figure would then be used in a ritual during which herbs and sacrificial blood were smeared onto its body while the healer chanted, imploring the gods to instil power in the sculpture.

There is also some debate around the origins of the soot commonly found on the figures. Some believe it is the accumulation of blood and ashes from generations of sacrifices, others say it is from being hung in houses above the always-burning fire.

Expo cat.: "Cultures, The Worlds Arts Fair", Brussels, Belgium, 2016, p. 99

Brussels, Belgium: "Cultures, The World Arts Fair", 8-12 June 2016; Paris, France: "Parcours des Mondes 2020", Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 8-13 September 2020

ADHRC: 0008487