Helm masks used by the Chamba people have a powerful style and take the form of buffalo heads. They have round heads, large flattened mouths at the front and two big backward sloping horns on the back side of the mask. It is believed that they incarnate the bush spirits. These masks are brought out for circumcision and funeral ceremonies.
Chamba statues are not very common and their role is little known. They often have a rich patina and a highly schematized sculptural form. They share some common features with masks of the neighbouring Mumuye.
The Chamba live in east Nigeria, close to the Mumuye and Jukun ethnic groups, to the south of the River Benoue.
They are spread out over a number of small kingdoms, and ruled over by a king that has ultimate power over his subjects, whilst at the same time being assisted by a council of elders comprised of chiefs of lineage. The king, considered as the sun’s son, could not come out after sunset, to which a cult was dedicated mainly to obtain abundant rainfall. This royal power is counterbalanced by the existence of both masculine and feminine secret societies.
After their circumcision, the boys began their initiation, which included amongst other things, the acquiring of secret knowledge.
Festivities to celebrate the new harvest were also the perfect occasion to put warriors to the test.
Each clan kept the skulls of its ancestors and dedicated a cult of worship to them in order to assure prosperity and fecundity. As well as these ancestral cults, there was also the cult of Vara, dedicated to a protecting genie.
Sometimes gender is distinguished by different colours: white clay for the men and red clay for the women.
Certain Chamba statues are meant to allow communication with the spirit world.
In the fields, the Chamba placed small statues, fixed in place with metal spikes, in order to be protected or healed from snake bites.
Some Chamba statues figure a couple with two bodies immerging from a common horizontal part that has two feet.