The Bamileke people of Cameroon are a unique people in terms of their history. They are cohesive and divided, similar yet distinct, like many African societies before them. The conquest of their territory by Germany in the late nineteenth century was followed by survival under French and British rule during the early twentieth century.
The Bamileke people's history, from French and British rule to decades of struggle for sovereignty, has had an impact on their culture and traditions. Many Bamileke customs have remained unchanged throughout time and were passed down from generation to generation as a source of cultural distinction and historical pride. The magnificent plumes studded with sparkling gems that adorn royal events all over the world - many of which are encrusted in gold – now symbolize the incredible power, beauty, wealth, and pageantry that are representative of Bamileke royalty.
The Tafari hat (or Juju hat, as they were originally known), like most Bamileke art, is produced for royal festivals and occasions. Every Bamileke nation has a chief or king. The mkem are a group of eight males who serve as the king's bodyguard and advisers.
The ruler of the kingdom is known to have gained prosperity and distinction for his state, and each serves as the head of a certain organization charged with specific duties within the realm. Military, economic, legal, or other responsibilities can all be found in this capacity. Every two years, on special occasions called mkem meetings, the king's riches are revealed. Members of the mkem and their supporters wear masks appropriate to their societies at these events.
The elephant, leopard, and rhinoceros masks are the most revered of these, and they are only worn by the king and male members of the Kuosi and Kemdje warrior groups. Tyn or Juju hats are generally seen with these masks, but they may also be worn alone.
Raffia is used to make the hats. The support structure is constructed from raffia. After that, wild avian feathers are dyed and attached to the bottom. A leather strap tied to the back of the hat is utilized to open it up all the way. The size of the headgear varies, especially between those produced for export and usage in home décor. When not in use, however,
The origin of the name "juju" is still a mystery. The two most popular theories regarding the word's origin state that it is either derived from the Hausa term djudju, which means "evil spirit," or comes from the French term joujou, which means "toy."
From its first recorded appearance in the late 17th century, juju has gone from being a simple term for West African religious beliefs and practitioners known as Juju men to a popular name for cigarettes and a renowned style of Nigerian music. From the time of its first documented usage in the mid-seventeenth century, juju became a common word among Europeans to designate West African religions and their healers known as Juju men.
It's possible that an observer mistook the wearers of these hats for Bamileke healers and gave them the name by which we now know the feathered headgear that they wore.
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