02 February 2021

Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns

There are a few resorts around Walt Disney World, and Disney resorts across the globe for that matter, that provide a safe haven for artifacts that intersect at the roundabout of history, culture, and artistry. At the very top of that list are the galleries of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, both in Jumbo House and Kidani Village. Each artifact has a story to tell, but these tales are only hinted at by the small placards that accompany them. Take this horn that sits in a small carved out space on the fireplace of The King’s Library.

The posting reads simply, “Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns - Only royal males in Cameroon grassfields are allowed to drink from these horn cups.” There isn’t a ton of information there to go onto, but there is enough for the curious to latch onto and dig deeper into the narrative tucked into the carved, worn drinking vessel. Like many of the items on exhibit it doesn’t take many Google searches to find solid information from a respected source. In the case of the Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns, an exploration of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art provides this enlightening entry, which is meant for another horn, but speaks to some of the specific themes also found on the Kidani Village horn.
“In the courts of Cameroon Grassfields Kingdoms, rulers and noblemen drink palm wine from carved buffalo horns. The buffalo or bush cow is a large, dangerous, crafty beast that can easily turn on the hunter. Like the leopard or elephant, the buffalo is a royal emblem. So prestigious is buffalo horn that it is copied in word. The decorative motif carved on this horn is suggestive of the spider, another symbolic animal, chosen for its wisdom. The earth spider, a nocturnal hole dweller, is used in divination throughout the Grassfields. This wisdom is assumed because it comes from the earth, the resting place of the dead who will become ancestors.”
The stories this horn could tell, the meetings and moments it had been a part of, are likely a mix of significant and mundane. Yet, this drinking horn clearly has a fascinating provenance, which could be said of the backstory for each article in the hallway, library, elevator nooks, and atrium galleries of both sides of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The next time you’re in the lodge, find an artifact yourself and run headlong down the rabbit hole of its inimitable story. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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