2006 World Monuments Watch
Surrounded by a sacred forest in the heart of northwest Cameroon, the Bafut Palace has been the fulcrum of political power for over 400 years. It embodies Bafut cultural identity and remains a center for religious rites and traditional ceremonies. Over 50 houses are clustered around the site’s spiritual core, Achum Shrine, and are used by the Fon (king), his wives, and the royal court. This shrine, built of wood and bamboo and covered with thatch, houses a valued devotional object, typically referred to as a fetish, and is an impressive example of traditional religious architecture.
World Monuments Fund worked closely with local partners
The dwellings that form the site’s outer perimeter were rebuilt in the early twentieth century following a disastrous fire. By 2007 many of the roofs had become dilapidated; sections had collapsed and others were leaking badly, threatening the structural integrity of the buildings. World Monuments Fund worked closely with local partners and stakeholders to initiate a conservation project. The roofs of the most seriously affected buildings were reconstructed, and that work became the basis for training local artisans and workers to address ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation of the buildings in the palace complex. As traditional tiles were no longer available, local artisans learned to make replacements using traditional techniques. The small-scale businesses created to produce the tiles are an important outcome of the project. The Achum Shrine at the center of the palace complex was also a priority conservation project carried out during the late 2000s. Bafut Palace stands at the center of the Bafut community, bearing witness to the power and importance of the Bafut people over the centuries. It remains the site of significant traditional ceremonies and religious rites and the built heritage of Cameroon, and West Africa more broadly, a heritage imperiled by globalization. Support from the Annenberg Foundation assured the survival of a particularly rich and meaningful piece of world architectural and cultural history.