Found in: Afrika Eye
The Bronze Men of Cameroon

The Bronze Men of Cameroon

classified 15 S

Afrika Eye


Please note: This was screened in Nov 2021

Florence A Yisi
55 mins, Subtitled

The Bronze Men of Cameroon is an intimate portrait of a community of bronze artisans in Foumban, the 'City of Arts' in Cameroon. Bronze casting is a valued cultural heritage of the Bamum People in the Western Region of Cameroon and this film presents bronze craftsmen at work, with rare insights into their expertise in producing unique bronze sculptures that are inscribed with symbolic narratives, collective memory and identity of the Bamum.

The film is also about the changing landscape of Bamum bronze casting and the threats to cultural continuity as global trends negatively impact on a treasured way of life. The bronze craftsmen are facing challenges in sustaining their livelihoods and safeguarding their unique cultural heritage that has formed and defined their identity over several generations. The raw materials for making bronze sculptures are scarce as Chinese traders who have no interest in trading with the Bamum for bronze artefacts - buy up large amounts of raw bronze to ship home to Chinese manufacturers, which drives up the costs of the remaining bronze the Bamum need for their art. The foundries are closing down, and this established traditional art practice is in decline. Some bronze artists are turning to farming and other trades and the younger generation are more interested in going to college and university. The artisans are fearful and uncertain "whether in the future Bamum's bronze art could disappear" and, with it, a tradition and their sense of belonging, livelihoods and history. Are these the last generation of bronze craftsmen in the Bamum Kingdom?