Inv. SDE/CM/edf-95709
Acquired from a Cameroonian trader and given to the Curator by
Gérard Sand, an antique dealer.
Provenance: border area between Cameroon and Congo.


Bell made of wood and metal representing a Biloko, an aggressive spirit of the rain forests of northern Congo and southern Cameroon. It measures 23 cm high and up to 17 cm wide. It represents a dwarfish creature with a very large mouth, two arms and a pointed 'hat', reminiscent of garden gnomes and a sort of tail-like appendage.


The following was recounted by the pygmy hunter from whom the object was purchased, as told by the Cameroonian trader. The pygmy, an Aka from the Likouala region, was considered to be a great wizard within his ethnic group.

" …The pygmy had gone hunting in the forest, as was his habit. But ever since the timber poachers had started blithely destroying these areas of West Africa, game had become increasingly scarce. The hunter had been forced to travel to the remotest parts of the forest. The woods where he ended up had a very bad reputation, and many people from neighbouring tribes had disappeared for good in there. But he had no choice: he could go into the woods or die of hunger. Despite the many grigris, n'kissis and amulets protecting him, the pygmy was still uncomfortable.
He had spotted the fresh tracks of a wild pig (probably a bush pig), which would make a welcome addition to the family mealtime. After tr
acking the animal for some time, he heard the shrill sound of a small bell.
The wild pig stood quivering at the base of the enormous hollow trunk of an iroko* tree; it seemed to be gripped by a horrifying creature shaking its little wooden bell. The supernatural being, which was small in stature even from a pygmy's point of view, had a look that radiated palpable malevolence, and an enormous mouth that looked like it could swallow up the pig or the pygmy whole. The bald, smooth-cheeked little imp was covered in greenery. This was clearly one of the most dangerous spirits in the forest, Biloko, the spirit of a dead man, who thirsted for revenge and who hated the living.
The pygmy was attracted to the monster's mouth, but as a powerful juju man, he was able to resist and and to shoot a poison arrow at the dwarf. The spirit disappeared immediately and the pygmy was released from the evil grip.
The arrow passed through the wild pig before lodging in the trunk of the dead tree. Inside the tree, a pile of human remains was evidence of the Biloko's voracious appetite. It was a very close call…

The pygmy gathered up the pig and the strange little bell shown here. The bell was traded to the Cameroonian trader for a nice matabiche, before finally ending up in the Surnateum.

*Iroko (Chlorophora excelsa): Large tree whose yellowish-red wood has commercial applications. Also called African oak.

Note: In the French spoken in the former French colonies the word biloko means a small object.