Category Archives: Nsoda

Nso Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 1) Military & Civilian Titles

This paper shall be shared into parts to give readers ample time to be able to grasp something about the Nso Titles and its administration in the Paramount Fondom of Nso. This paper is based on the research by Shey Stephen Shemlon wo Vilan (PHD)

The Paramount Fon Of Nso

The Nso Paramount Fondom (Kingdom) is made up of the three brother Fondoms of Nso, Mbiame and Oku, (with the Paramount resident in the Fondom of Nso), and the vassal states of Nkar, Ntseh, the Noni Fondoms (Din, Mbinon, Lassin, Nkor), and other smaller Fondoms like Ndzerem, Kilun, Ron, Ndzeen, Gashong, Nshookov, Kijem, Tev, Mboon, etc.

This essay on titles and titleholders applies to practically all of the Fondoms of the Paramount Fondom of Nso, although the appellations might vary in some cases from Fondom to Fondom. However, most of our discussion is going to center around the Paramount Fondom of Nso from which most examples in this treatise will be drawn.

The titles will be analyzed in two categories; civil and military. Although controversies surround all titles nowadays, this essay will concentrate on an analysis of civilian titles where most misunderstanding abounds.

It is necessary to bring some clarity to the categorization of titles, title hierarchies and meanings, duties and obligations attributed to title categories and the processes surrounding title awards; because the reigning confusion in the field of titles is seriously undermining our tradition and eroding our culture. Some have even posited that if ignored, the bastardization of our traditional titles could spell death for our culture.

To buttress the point, just imagine what would happen to British culture if any Tom, Dick or Harry could declare themselves a Lord or Knight themselves a Sir or Lady when they so desire. Or, imagine what would happen if an Earl woke up one day and decided that the Earl title was too low for him and declared himself a Lord, demanding all the rights and obligations due him.

It is the need for this clarification that has necessitated this expose.

I. TITLES AND TITLE CATEGORIES

There are two categories of titles in the Fondoms of Nso:

1. Military Titles

2. Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles


I-1. MILITARY TITLE CLASSIFICATIONS

Military titles are assigned to the military hierarchy as recognized in the Fondoms of Nso:

General (Nformi – all grades)

Platoon or Legion Commander (Ngwang – all grades)

Squadron or Regiment or Company Commander (Tav – all grades)

Special Forces Intelligence Officer (Gwei – all grades)

Other Derivative Military Titles

Military titles have so far generated less ambiguity and confusion, principally because a Ngwang for example is the same title in Nkar, Din, Oku or Mbiame. Gwei is the same in all Fondoms. There is also no confusion with the various regiments or squadrons (Samba, Nchoro, Jwim, etc.), even when it comes to the Derivative titles that these regiments and companies confer on their warriors.

There is still some ambiguity however as to which military title is higher than which civilian title especially since most of these titles are now just ceremonial titles, modernity having infused another dimension to our concept of chivalry or achievement and moderated our need for wars of conquest and assimilation.

No one has however attempted to rank Nformi Bah or Nformi Gham for example among the Vibai for well known administrative reasons that seek to keep authority over the military with the Fon and his councilors. For that reason we will keep the classifications separate and not attempt to merge and rank civilian and military titles.

1-2. CIVILIAN TITLES

Confusion still reigns in the category of Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles because of the preponderance of presumption and usurpation that permeates present day Nso titleholder circles especially in the diasporas of the Cameroons, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Cases have been reported where people would decide to anoint themselves Sheys, Yahs, Fais or Shufais and insist to be treated with all the dues and prerogatives of the title.

Cases exist especially in the diasporas where people were conferred lesser titles and they decided that they deserved higher titles, either out of ignorance of the system of traditional honors and awards or because no one around them knew the truth or understood the system any better.

This confusion however does not exist in the case of inherited titles. Nobody will dispute the Kibaiship of a Shufai Tsenla for example when a new one is installed and accepted by the family. In the same light no one will ever dispute the heir to Yah wo Kiyan for example if She is properly installed.

With the non-inherited civilian titles that are awarded or newly created by the Fons, confusion abounds.

We shall analyze each of these titles separately to bring clarity to the categorization of titles, the processes of title awards, title hierarchies and meanings, and the duties and obligations attributed to title categories.

I-3. CIVILIAN TITLE CLASSIFICATIONS

Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles can be classified roughly as follows in descending order of status:

Shufai (Vibai – all categories)

Fai (all categories – some Fais rank higher than Vibai)

Yah (all categories – some Yahs rank higher than Fais and Vibai)

Shey (all categories – some Sheys rank higher than Fais, Yahs and Vibai)

Other Derivative Titles (some rank higher than Sheys)

II. CIVILIAN TITLE CATEGORIES AND RANKS

The highest civilian title next to the Fon is Shufai. There are various categories of Shufai, some lower in rank than the next categories of Fai and Yah. Even though some Sheys may be higher in functional rank than Fais and Yahs, it is rare to see a Derivative (Secondary or Tertiary) title that supersedes the other titles in rank.

We shall examine each of the title categories extensively in order of rank.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Final :Part 10)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here , part 6 here , part 7 here , part 8 here and part 9 here: This part ends with the references/bibliography of the whole paper.

VI-4. MANDATORY CULT MEMBERSHIP TRAINING
In the days of old it took many years for a newly inducted member to learn the rules and regulations of the cult. The training on the handling of the cult medicines and fetishes took decades. It took serious training to rise from one rank to the next within the cult house. It took decades before one could become a “samba wir”. This training and tutelage should be re-instated in all cults. If a cult member is unwilling to go through the training they should not be allowed to rise in rank or come out as an escort for the cult masquerade (their financial wherewithal not withstanding). How can such a member who has not learned to manipulate the cult’s occultist spirits and medicines, stroke the totem in the cult masquerade in any public arena?
If the new members were to go through the mandatory training they may also come to realize that if they advance to certain ranks in some cults their diet may be restricted at certain times during some rituals. For examples some cults may restrict their members to weeks of only eating “vikuou, mbaar, shinyaa and ntee – cocoyams, cocoyam leaf soup, eggplant soup and groundnut soup”, no meat products or any starchy foods. Any member who is ready to endure this for the rest of their lives may then want to advance to the ranks of “samba wir”.
When some of these potential senior cult members learn through their training that if they rise to given ranks or assume certain totem stroking functions in either the Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì cults for example, they may be forbidden from being buried in a coffin (even a bamboo one) because their spirits could no longer be allowed to be imprisoned (in a coffin), they will consult their families and their other gods before seeking senior ranks in either Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì cults.
What is happening today is tantamount to someone coming to a University, registering for classes, paying all their tuition and fees, and refusing to attend classes, but insisting that they should be given the Masters Degree or PhD anyway because they just do not have the time to study and/or attend classes and that by-the-way they have already paid all their tuition. Any University worthy of their name will throw such a person out.
The University model should be adopted at the level of the cults. Anyone who is unwilling to go throw the mandatory training should be thrown out of the cult. This will make sure that new comers will take the time to learn to become worthy members as was the case in the old days. With such a requirement, if the Fòn proposes a title to a visitor who is unwilling or unable to spend the time to learn the roots of Nso’ culture, that visitor can refuse the title and the Fòn will be sympathetic to their decision.
VI-5. MANDATORY CULT MEMBERSHIP OBLIGATIONS FOR LIFE
In the old days cult membership and titles came with lifetime obligations. In 1970 a Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋwéròŋ or Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋgírì contributed an average of 200 FCFA (Two Hundred Francs CFA) on a monthly basis for the upkeep of the cults and other Palace institutions when all their donations throughout the year were averaged. If this amount is compounded as above, it comes to about 2,150 FCFA (Two Thousands One Hundred and Fifty Francs CFA) today. If the system required a Sheèy to contribute 2,000FCFA, every Faáy to contribute 3,000FCFA and every Shúufaáy to contribute 5,000FCFA on a monthly basis, enough would be generated for the upkeep of all cults, all Palace institutions and all lineage, clan and sub-clan compounds.
Again all heriditary Title Holders who need the help would be assisted by their families to meet this obligation, especially given that their compound would also be helped by this contribution.
Many would think deeply when a Titled cult membership is proposed to them and examine whether they can meet this monthly lifetime obligation before accepting. Those who can not keep this obligation will not accept the Titled cult membership.
We also posit that if current Title Holders were given the choice of keeping their titles and meeting up to the monthly obligations or giving up the titles, some will give up their Titles and allow themselves to be “washed” voluntarily. Those who choose to keep the titles and refuse to keep up with the monthly obligtions should be involuntarily “washed”.
VI-6. CREATION OF AN EX-OFFICIO PALACE ADVISORY BOARD
We have proposed the re-introduction of various streams of income that used to get to the Palace in cash and in kind from various Men of Title. To manage these funds we propose the creation of an Ex-Officio Palace Advisory Board whose only role shall be financial oversight and related financial management. This Board will be responsible for setting up a Palace Office with a salaried Manager, Assistants and Secretaries to manage the streams of income enumerated herein and insure that they are disbursed and used efficiently.
The second role of the Advisory Board shall be to work with the Fòn, Vibay, Atárnto’, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì, to set up permanent income generating streams to make sure that for the next 500 years, the Nso’ Palace institutions are as autonomous as those of successful Kingdoms like those of the United Kingdom and other European Kingdoms.
Such an Advisory Board should be elected from among current and committed Titled cult members (ladies included) and should be given a mandate to complete their task within a specified period of time.

VII. CONCLUSION
It is our hope that this detailed analysis has provided a good insight into the inner working of the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom Palace and its institutions, the most important of which are male-dominated cults.
Hopefully our suggestions for the future will be followed so Nso’ culture can be modernized responsibly in a way that will ensure its survival for the next 500 years.
As time marches on, Nso’ culture will evolve. We pray that the Nso’ people should remain conservative and glued to their traditional norms as they advance and modernize their culture to suit the evolving times as their forefathers did for 600 years under circumstances that were more trying and more turbulent than the present.

VIII. REFERENCES

VIII-1. “An introduction to Nso’ Culture”, Vol. I, by Faáy Woo Lii Wong (Joseph Lafon), 2001 VIII-2.”Introduction to Nso’ History”, by William Banboye, 2001
VIII-3. “The Ndzәәndzәv Dispute: From its beginning to its ending”, by Faáy Woo Lii Wong (Joseph Lafon), 1999
VIII-4. “Nso’ Historical Timeline: An Illustrated and Annotated History of the Paramount Tikar Kingdom (Fòndom) of Bui in Northwestern Cameroons”, by Sheèy Shiyghan Stephen Shemlon, PhD, (to be published).
VIII-5. “The Core Culture of Nso’”, by Paul N. Mzeka, 1980.
VIII-6. “Sov! Sov! Our Glorious Heritage”, by Rev. Fondzefee Charles Tangwa, 2008.
VIII-7. “Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon: An Intellectual In Politics”, by Prof. Daniel Noni Lantum, 1992.
VIII-8. “Fon Nso’ Sehm Ataar (1947 – 1972): Father of Nso’ Development”, by Prof. Daniel Noni Lantum, 2000.
VIII-9. “Royal Succession In The African Kingdom Of Nso’: A Study In Oral Historiography”, by Bongfen Chem-Langhëë and Verkijika G. Fanso, 2008.
VIII-10. “A History Of The Church In Kumbo Diocese (1912-1988)”, by Joseph Lafon (Faáy Lii Wong), 1988. VIII-11. ” Ŋgonnso’ Cultural Festival 2010 Magazine”, by NSODA, 2010.

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 9)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here , part 6 here , part 7 here and part 8 here :

VI. NSO’ CULTURAL MODERNIZATION AND THE FUTURE
There has been a lot of talk lately about the rapid degradation and modernization of Nso’ culture. Some have postulated that this has been caused by the cheapening of the cults and the admission of foreigners to master our occultist secrets and thereby gain too much power and influence in the Nso’ Kingdom both within and outside the Palace Court. Some have pinpointed to specific examples of individual influences of these recent immigrants (still considered foreigners) in our Palaces and cult groups, and claimed it as the root cause of this degradation.
Looking back at Nso’ history we can note that immigration and the structured absorption of immigrants has been the greatest strength of Nso’ culture over the last 600 years. The reaction from those who consider themselves authentic Nso’ has as expected always been resistive to the integration and empowering of new comers. This is what happened when newbees like Ndzәәndzәv and Taaŋkùm were catapulted to the number two and three spots in the land while old Mntaár Lords like those of the original Mbiiŋgiy lineage were relegated to Tárnto’ status. It was even new comers like Tsenla’, Do’ Ruun and Do’ Ŋgvәn that became recognized as Mntaár Lords while some original Mntaár Lords could only be promoted to Faáy Won Jemer ve Fòn with their moribund Taa-Mbàn cult.

Such rapid promotion of the newcomers often led to serious resentment that at times resulted in assassinations like that of Faáy Sov (Foinso’) in the 1840s.
In this debate some have even questioned whether someone of Berber origin (Mbororo or Fulani) could be a senior ranking member of a Nso’ cult or even the Paramount Fòn of Nso’. When we look back at history we realize it may already have happened given the Nso’ Kingdom’s very efficient policy of assimilation and acculturation by at times forced intermarriage. It is very possible that a Mntaár Lord could have married a Berber woman whose daughter, grand-daughter or great-grand-daughter became the Fòn’s wife (wiyntoh) and produced the next King, afterall the only requirement was that the future King’s mother should be from the Mntaár lineage. Recent Fòns’ matrilineal lineages have been traced to Kitukela-Ndzeng, Dzekwa, Meluf, Nturkui-Kikaikelaki and Sangfir-Mbam. Given the integrated nature of the families in these communities with the Fulanis and Mbororos in the last few centuries, can we be so certain that none of these Fòns have Berber blood through their matrilineal lineages?
Pushing the argument further, we have many vibrant Mntaár sons in the diasporas like Wo Ngomrin and his siblings. If one of these young men marries someone of European or Asian descent who later produces a daughter or grand-daughter who becomes a wiyntoh, isn’t it conceivable that we could have a kimbang (white) Fòn? As Africans, thanks to Kenya we are proud to have an Obama in the American White House, so may be we should accept the possibility that decades from today a Cherokee (American Indian) King could proudly say: “My son ‘Ŋkarjume Thasungke Witko Nso’bani (Ŋkarjume Crazy Horse Nso’bani) is the Paramount King of the Powerful Tikar Kingdom of Nso’ in the African Savannah grass fields”.
VI-1. ROOT CAUSES OF NSO’ CULTURAL DEGRADATION
From the analysis we just made in this essay we posit that these apparent degradations cited above are just symptoms of a deeper desease that is eating into Nso’culture in this modern era, a disease that must be cured if the culture is to survive. In this last section we examine this disease and propose some remedies for it, in a bid to save Nso’ culture from eventual collapse.
The problems affecting Nso’culture are four-fold:
 The collapse of the system that maintained our traditional institutions (from the Palace through the cults to our individual lineages) structurally, morally and financially.
 The relative ease of induction into the cults which has led to an avalanche of unworthy Men of Title being admitted into the inner fold, with full powers and influence in the Palace Court.
 The collapse of the required mandatory period of training and apprenticeship for cult members as well as members of the inner Palace Court.
 The collapse of the system of checks and balances that has led to corruption within the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults as well as the inner Palace Court.
All these problems can be corrected if we can just go back to what used to obtain in the old days and modernize it appropriately as we propose below.
VI-2. REMEDY FOR THE MNTAÁR LINEAGES
Some of the skirmishes that have been encountered lately with the Mntaár Lords and their associated lineages which recently exploded in the Do’ Ŋgvәn Crisis of 2010 can be remedied by allowing the Mntaár lineages to belong to the Ŋwéròŋ cult, since most of them are free commoners. If this is accepted we can then allow the leading Three Aboriginal Mntaár Lords to belong to both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults as is the case with the other Seven Lords of the Court (Vibay ve Samba).
VI-3. CULT MEMBERSHIP INDUCTION UPGRADE
We propose that the conditions for admission into the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults should be severely revalued upwards. In 1970 it used to cost (in goats, fowls, palm wine, salt, oil, firewood, constuction and roofing materials, etc.) about 150,000FCFA (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Francs CFA) to become a Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋwéròŋ or Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋgírì. If we compound this amount at an average 3.0% – 5.0% annual inflation rate (conservative estimate here) and add the 50% devaluation of the FCFA this amount is about 1,650,000FCFA (One Million Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Francs CFA) today. If we tell any Tukov Kimbinin who wants to become a Sheèy wo Ngang today that it would cost him 1.5 Million FCFA to do it, he would think twice before accepting that tan, kibam or bar that he is trying to buy from a Sheèy or Taafu in the dark corners for 10,000FCFA. Tukov Kimbinin will even say NO if the Fòn calls him and tries to give him a title. It would also stop the Sheèy and Taafu from distributing titles indiscriminately.
Titles are a prerogative of the Fòn (even aSheèy who are kishers of lineages must be approved by the Fòn), so the traditional institutions must make sure that only the Fòn can award a title.
Such an amount will be very helpful in that it would provide enough for the other cult members to feast on and enough would be left over to distribute to Kibam ke Fòn, Kibam ke Vikiyntoh and Kibam ke Ŋwéròŋ and/or Kibam ke Ŋgírì. It will also be enough to provide for the upkeep and upgrade of all Palace institutions.
In addition, the cults will be ridden of unworthy candidates if they apply the same upgrades to their initiation and rank promotion fees.
The amount will be upgraded commensurately for aFaáy and aShúufaáy. For the inherited titles, the new Title Holders will use the opportunity to bring their families together to contribute for the enstoolment. Part of these family contributions will also go to the upgrade and upkeep of the new Title Holder’s compound, thus preserving a vital part of the Nso’ culture that is also falling apart (the lineage, clan and sub-clan compounds).

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Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 8)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here , part 6 here and part 7 here:

V-4. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ŊGÍRÌ COMPOUND IN 1935
Sometime in the mid 1930s, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was shattered. During a mortuary ceremony at Ki’ Kingomen by the Ŋwéròŋ cult, members of the Ŋgírì cult appeared even though they were not invited and seized the drinks that were reserved for Ŋwéròŋ cults members (ki bi la Ŋgírì ngwaah bo wu no bvee king – who even invited Ŋgírì to this party before they made this mess). The Ki’ clan was able to calm nerves and the ensuing scuffle was brought under control. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv was expected to reprimand the Ŋgírì group for this affront on Ŋwéròŋ and he did not. Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) was livid, especially because the princes who led this affront on Ŋwéròŋ were the principal contestants to his sitting on the throne and dared to boast that Ki’ Kingomen was the beginning of their power grab with the throne as their ultimate target.

Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) demanded an explanation from Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv that Shúufaáy refused to provide. In addition instead of reporting to the Palace Court to see the Fòn as was required that week, Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv went to the Ŋgírì compound. This was the last straw. The Fòn then went back to Ŋwéròŋ and ordered an attack on Ŋgírì. A major Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì clash ensued and Ŋwéròŋ burned the Ŋgírì compound to the ground and banned Ŋgírì from the Nso’ Palace. Tensions were high and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv in the following dry season did not perform sacrifices for the millet harvest (jang saar). The Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ had enough of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv’s obstinate tirades.

The Fòn openly invoked the occultist powers to smite Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. The spirits obliged and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (Nsairun) died in September 1935. The Ndzәәndzәv lineage never forgave the Fòn for the death of their young Shúufaáy and this incident festered on to the 1956 Ndzәәndzәv Crisis (settled in 1968).

It took another Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (Shaafee) and the next decade before peace was re-established and the Ŋgírì cults were re-instated. The members of the Ŋgírì cult accepted their subordinate status to Ŋwéròŋ, continued their existence as a fraternity of princes and everything progressed peacefully until 1947 when another progressive prince Sheèy Wan Nto’ Mbinkar Mbiŋlo was enthroned as the King Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972). Ŋgírì saw the opportunity and attempted to regain their old glory and power under Fòn Mapri (1907-1910). Unlike his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was very tactful in handling the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì conflict. He gradually increased Ŋgírì’s power and influence without alienating Ŋwéròŋ, but the rivalry still boiled to the surface after a decade of apparent peace.
V-5. THE PALACE FIRE DISASTER OF 1956
The festering Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì dispute may have claimed another casualty, this time dismaying the whole Kingdom. On December 24th, 1956, a mysterious fire started at the Ŋwéròŋ compound section of the Palace and quickly engulfed the whole Palace in flames. Even though the Ŋwéròŋ people could not prove it, they accused the Ŋgírì cults of burning their compound in retaliation for the 1935 destruction of the Ŋgírì compound. Ŋgírì vehemently denied the charges especially given that the retaliatory effort had caused the destruction of the whole Palace except the Ŋgírì compound which was a little removed from the rest of the Palace structures.

Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was however quietly elated by the destruction of the Palace. In fact he named the first son who was born into the extended Royal Family after this incident Beri Ngaa Ton (thanks to the arsonist). Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) saw this as an opportunity to reconstruct a modern Palace and he ordered his whole Kingdom to build him a befitting Palace comparable to the Bamoun Palace in Foumban. The Nso’ people took the challenge and the great Nso’ Palace Reconstruction Project (which is still ongoing today) was started. The Reconstruction Project took attention away from petty squabbles and kept the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì conflict at bay for another decade.
V-6. BAA GWAR ŊGÍRÌ OF KOOŊGIR
Like Ŋwéròŋ’s Yeŋwéròŋ (mother of Ŋwéròŋ ) cult, Ŋgírì also had a Yeŋgírì (mother of Ŋgírì) cult, with the difference that the Yeŋgírì cult was just occultist (shiv) without a display masquerade like Yeŋwéròŋ had. In 1967 things changed. The Yeŋgírì cult decided to create their display masquerade. The inaugural ceremony chosen for the masqerade was the death celebration of Shúufaáy Kooŋgir, a senior Lord of Sacrifice (Kibay ke Dùy ke Ntaŋri). Ŋwéròŋ was enraged by this development and lodged a complaint with the King Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) but the Fòn refused to intervene.

Ŋwéròŋ diplomatically convinced one of Shúufaáy Kooŋgir’s sons that if they allowed the Yeŋgírì masquerade to display during their father’s funeral all the male children of the lineage would die mysteriously. Shúufaáy’s son, Mr. Anthony Suila (Baa Anthony Gwar Ŋgírì – Baa Anthony the Ŋgírì slayer) warned Ŋgírì not to display the Yeŋgírì masquerade but they were determined to do it. So when the Yeŋgírì masquerade attempted to display, Baa Gwar Ŋgírì swung to action with a machete and threatened to behead the Yeŋgírì masquerade. In the commotion that followed Yeŋgírì was saved in extremis and Ŋgírì left the Kooŋgir compound in broad daylight (all cults travel only at night) and retired to the palace in disgraceful disarray. This was sacrilegious, with Ŋgírì cult members raging mad and Ŋwéròŋ laughing all the way back to their quarters. This not withstanding Yeŋgírì was saved and has survived with a display masquerade to this day. The Ŋgírì members did not forgive Ŋwéròŋ for this humiliation that has remained in Nso’ folklore with Baa Gwar Ŋgírì as the ultimate vilain. This incident kept the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì squabbles alive for the next four decades.
Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was able to contain the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì rivalry till the end of his reign. Before he joined the ancestors however he did something remarkable. In negotiation with the Bamouns, he agreed to absorb all Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults with their occultist accoutrements when the Bamoun acknowledged to him that they no longer had the wherewithal to preserve this Tikar culture. The Ŋwéròŋ cult refused to accept any new Bamoun occultism except what was going to enhance their Kinghaayasi, Jwiŋwéròŋ and Yeŋwéròŋ cults, and threatened to retaliate if the Fòn gave anything further to the Ŋgírì cults. Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) ignored Ŋwéròŋ and started the upgrade of Ŋgírì with additional Bamoun occultism, but died and left the task to be completed by his successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983).
V-7. THE PALACE MAYHEM OF DECEMBER 1976
In 1972 a new King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) was crowned. To complete the task left to him by his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972), he first had to prove to Ŋwéròŋ and Manjoŋ (the war society) that he was the overall Paramount and that his word and his decisions were final. In 1975, without consultation Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) returned Bamoun King Nsaŋgou’s (1863-1889) cap-and-crown that was captured in the 1885-1889 Nso’-Bamoun war when King Nsaŋgou (1863-1889) was beheaded. When Ŋwéròŋ and Manjoŋ objected the Fòn informed them that it was the price to be paid to keep the Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cult artifacts that his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) had accepted. He also informed Ŋwéròŋ that he was about to complete the handing of the five (5) Bamoun cults/masquerades that Ŋwéròŋ had refused to keep [Moo (Taa Maandzә), Nchiy Kibah (Yeye Boy), Moomvem (Mbiy a Bami), Shiŋwar Ndzә and Rifem] to the Ŋgírì group. Despite Ŋwéròŋ’s vehement objections, he did and re-opened old wounds. The Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud was re-ignited with a new ferocity worst than that of the previous four decades.
On December 26th, 1976 during a dual death celebration, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì did everything in their power to coordinate the outing displays of their masquerades to avoid any face-to-face encounters of their masquerades in the open public court at the Palace square. But trouble had been brewing for more than a year and there were trouble makers eager to start a fight on both sides. The Ŋgírì group’s Wanmabu masquerade came out to display when the Ŋwéròŋ group’s Kibaraŋko masquerade was still out. The two masquerades met in open square and a confrontation ensued. The Kibaraŋko masquerade hit the Wanmabu masquerade with its club (kimbuh) so hard that Wanmabu almost fell. In retaliation Wanmabu hit Kibaraŋko’s huge head so hard that it almost fell off. To the Ŋwéròŋ members this was beyond sacrilegious. An open fight broke out in the Palace square. If you were a Ŋgírì member you looked for the nearest Ŋwéròŋ member you could beat and punched the living daylight out of him, and vice versa for the Ŋwéròŋ members. It was open mayhem.
After making sure that Kibaraŋko had safely retreated to the Ŋwéròŋ compound, the Ŋwéròŋ young men decided that the best way to end this feud for good was to capture Ŋgírì’s Wanmabu as a Ŋwéròŋ kintan (captive Ŋwéròŋ hopper). Wanmabu sensed the danger. Since Wanmabu’s path back to Ŋgírì’s compound was blocked, Wanmabu ran to the Queens’ and Wives’ quarters (Vikiynto’ Ŋsan). The Fòn’s wives were openly hostile to Wanmabu because in their view Ŋgírì started the fight (“aa du fe? bo yo ke ven vindzeh vin aa?” – where are you going? didn’t you guys start this fight?). The Vikiynto’ went after Wanmabu with their clubs (mbangsi). Wanmabu ran for its dear life. Since Wanmabu knew the Ŋwéròŋ young men were after him and all his paths had been blocked he headed straight for the inner Court of the Palace (Taa Kibu). Unfortunately for Wanmabu the Fòn was not in. However, luckily for it the Nso’ people respect the Royal Stool (Kava) even more than they respect the King (Fòn). So, Wanmabu dove under the Kava, held it firmly with both hands and remained there. There was nothing the Ŋwéròŋ boys could do. They just stood there and waited because they knew Wanmabu would have to leave for the Ŋgírì compound at some point. The frustrated Ŋwéròŋ boys however did not wait quietly. They taunted Wanmabu with words like “kinga ke shiv vikiy ki mo ki ke ki pen shu. ver yi yen mo aa yi goh sar Kava” (cowardly women’s masquerade that wears lipstick makeup. we shall see how you will remain under the Royal Stool). Wanmabu held its ground and remained under the Kava, patiently waiting to be rescued.
Unbeknown to the Ŋwéròŋ fellows someone notified Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and senior Ŋwéròŋ leaders about what was happening. When these elders got to the Palace all hell broke loose. In a matter of minutes a new set of about fifty (50) hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) came out with whips and dispersed the crowds from the Palace square including the Ŋwéròŋ boys who were in the inner Palace Court waiting for Wanmabu to leave the Kava. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Faáy Faanjaŋ escorted Wanmabu back to the Ŋgírì compound. Yes, the grownups were around and calm returned to the Palace.
When things returned to normal on that day, half a dozen individuals were sent to the hospital. When the Fòn came back to the Palace and learned of the events that had occured, he was infuriated. He summoned both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì to the Palace Court and imposed huge fines on them. Even Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Faáy Faanjaŋ were fined for their failure to prevent the incident and for the amount of time it took them to quell the mayhem. After the fines were paid some sanity returned to both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì for at least two decades.
V-8. THE FELLING OF THE PALACE TREE
Even though things were quiet, the playboy Ŋgírì masquerade Wanmabu continued provoking Ŋwéròŋ cult members every time it came out to display. There was a huge tall tree in the middle of the Palace Square (Maandzә Ngay). Whenever Wanmabu came out, it would climb on this tree and spy on activities in the Ŋwéròŋ compound. Young Ŋwéròŋ boys used to retreat behind the safety of the Ŋwéròŋ walls and attempt to shoot Wanmabu down from the tree with their catapults, but this did not deter Wanmabu at all. The Ŋwéròŋ hierarchy complained to the Fòn who decided not to take any action in stopping Wanmabu. Ŋwéròŋ took matters into their own hands and applied a deadly chemical concoction to the tree in the dead of night. The beautiful tree died and to everyone’s sorrow lost its foliage and dried up. The Fòn had no choice but to cut it down, depriving Wanmabu of his favorite perch thus calming the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì fued for a few more years.
V-9. THE “MBOOR” LEAF PALAVER
In 1993 the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ got a new young and vibrant King Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present). The Ŋgírì cult decided it was time to reassert their powers anew and in 1994/1995 after giving the new Fòn a two year reprieve, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was once again broken. This time around Ŋgírì’s Yeŋgírì cult decided that their members were going to wear the same regalia like Ŋwéròŋ’s Yeŋwéròŋ cult when their Yeŋgírì masquerade came out for public displays. They decided that Yeŋgírì cult members were going to wear “mboor” the plant leaf that Yeŋwéròŋ cult members adorned their headgear with. Now, in the unwritten constitution of the Nso’ dynasty it can be traced to as far back as 1727 (when the lost Prince Yiir was discovered by Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and brought back to be made King) that it was agreed that only princes that were recognized as Kings and were allowed to sit on the throne were allowed to wear the “mboor” leaf in the company of the senior Yeŋwéròŋ cult members. No other prince (except the King) was allowed to adorn their head with this leaf. So if the Yeŋgírì cult decided that their members were going to wear the “mboor”, then any princes that were Yeŋgírì cult members that decided to wear the “mboor” leaf on their heads were surreptitiously trying to usurp the throne. In order to prevent an uprising, the Fòn stepped in and forbade his brother princes from wearing the “mboor” leaf. The Cameroons administration was asked to intervene and forbid any Yeŋgírì cult member from wearing the “mboor” leaf to ensure that peace reigned in Bui Division.
Ŋwéròŋ thought they had cornered the Yeŋgírì cult members, but they were wrong. A few plant leaves do look like the “mboor” leaf. One of them is the medicinal bean-seed-like plant called “shinjaang”. The Yeŋgírì cult members found solace in “shinjaang”. So, the next time the Yeŋgírì cult masquerade came out to display, the cult members adorned “shinjaang” leaves on their heads. Of course the Bui Divisional Administration was watching. Once they confronted the Ŋgírì folks the answer was simple (this one no be “mboor” sa, na “shinjaang” – this one is not the “mboor” leaf sir, this is a “shinjaang” leaf). The Bui Administration was furious because they could not differentiate “mboor” from “shinjaang”. In the Administration’s view if it looked like “mboor”, quacked like “mboor” and walked like “mboor”, it was “mboor”. So, the Bui Administration banned the Ŋgírì cult from adorning anything that looked like “mboor” on their heads. The new Fòn agreed with the administration and peace returned.
An elaborate ceremony was organized to celebrate what everybody thought was the end of the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud. The Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì Shigwàála’ masquerades actually came out together and embraced each other in public and everyone sang “hallelujah”. But unfortunately it was not meant to be. The Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud was just held in abeyance for another decade.
V-10. ŊGONNSO’ 2008 AND THE HOPEFUL FUTURE
A few minor incidents occurred (like the snatching of Kibaraŋko’s club (mbuh) by the Ŋgírì members or the confiscation of Wanmabu’s spears (kongsi) by the Ŋwéròŋ members or the Yeŋwéròŋ-Yeŋgírì-Kibaraŋko encounter during the burial of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm in 2004). These were pretty minor and did not disturb public peace. In 2008 when Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) decided to celebrate the Kingdom’s cultural week, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì clash resurfaced during the ceremonial sacrifice in Kovvifәm. Ŋwéròŋ’s Kibaraŋko and Ŋgírì’s Wanmabu masquerades met face-to-face at the Kovvifәm public square but the confrontation was not as bad as the December 1976 Palace incident. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. However, this encounter was just a precursor. The worst was still to come.
During the closing ceremonies a few days later, Kibaraŋko and Wanmabu came face-to-face again at the Kimbo public square, half a mile north of the Palace. Sparks flew. The worst would have happened (and December 1976 would have been child’s play) were it not for the timely intervention of senior Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult leaders. Kibaraŋko and Wanmabu postponed their deadly dance to the Palace square (Maandzә Ngay) 30 minutes later. It was amazing theatre. The King Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) had to come out personally to quell the situation. The Fòn was livid. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì were summoned to the Court and this time the fines and sanctions were draconian. Four senior Ŋwéròŋ members and three senior Ŋgírì members were banned from both cults and the Palace vicinity for life. The Nso’ community woke up and was aghast that popular figures like Sheèy Taafuh Tarzan of Taaŋkùm (Ŋgírì), retired officer Engelbert Mbulai (Ŋwéròŋ) and Paa Little Man (late) of Ve Baah Rong (Ŋwéròŋ ) had been rusticated from the palace for good.
If any lessons were learned here, it is hoped the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud will finally come to an end. Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) and Ŋwéròŋ were hash in the punishment they meted out to the agitators of the last incident, but it is hoped the punishment was enough to deter any future recurrence. The fact that this time around it was not only the Shigwàála’ she Ŋgírì and Shigwàála’ she Ŋwéròŋ masquerades but also Wanmabu and Kibaraŋko masquerades that came out to celebrate the end of Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì hostilities is hopefully a sign that we have seen an end to this centuries old feud. Let peace reign.

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 7)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here and part 6 here:

V-1. THE RE-INTRODUCTION OF THE ŊGÍRÌ CULTS
During the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889 the Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) ransacked the Foumban Palace and looted both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults occultism (shiv), as well as artifacts and masquerades. After the war the loot was used to enhance especially the Ŋwéròŋ cults of Kinghaayasi and Jwiŋwéròŋ. The reigning Paramount King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) then decided to use the remaining loot to re-introduce the Ŋgírì cults to Nso’ land, with the strong backing of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. As was to be expected Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who re-introduced Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ society) were incensed by this re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults. Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv refused to back down. However, to pacify Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm they agreed to limit Ŋgírì’s power substantially. According to their agreement Ŋgírì was never going to assume any of the Judicial, Administrative or Regulatory roles that were then under Ŋwéròŋ’s authority. Ŋgírì was limited to the role of Palace fraternity for the boys (princes). This did not sit very well with some senior princes who were barred by virtue of their princely birth from belonging to the Ŋwéròŋ cults.
V-2. PALACE ASSASINATIONS AND COUPS
As expected, when one of the disgruntled princes who was a senior member of the severely limited and hamstringed Ŋgírì cults became King he decided to give the Ŋgírì cults more power. This happened in 1907 when a senior Ŋgírì cult member became the King Fòn Mapri (1907-1910). Of course Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm objected to this augmentation of Ŋgírì’s power. In fact Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was so incensed that Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was breaking the agreements they had with his predecessor that he opposed Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) in public. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) could not digest this affront to his authority and ordered Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm to be killed. Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was assassinated within the Palace grounds in 1909 and his staff was sent back to his people (the Taaŋkùm people still sing Laala about the incident to this day). The assassination of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was the last straw for Ŋwéròŋ which had tolerated quite a few killings from Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) who was purging the Royal family of all his potential rivals. Ŋwéròŋ decided that Fòn Mapri (1907 -1910) needed to be taken to the execution site in Kisée (near Mbuluv) and executed (laar – made to disappear). However before Ŋwéròŋ could put their plan into action another opportunity presented itself. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was ordered to Bamenda station to pay submissive tribute to the German colonial Governor. Ŋwéròŋ plotted Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) assassination at Vikuùtsәn when the Fòn was on his way to Bamenda in 1910. To this day in Nso’ folklore Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) is referred to as Kinforkir ke Vikuùtsәn (the one who died prematurely at Vikuùtsәn) and is recorded as the second casualty of the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì squabbles after Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (Tsәmaloŋ).
To bring back peace to the Palace, Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) rescinded the increased Ŋgírì powers that Fòn Mapri (1910-1947) had ordered and returned to the 1890 agreements between Ŋwéròŋ, Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm and Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) that led to the re-instatement of the Ŋgírì cults. There were still however some recalcitrant princes who were unwilling to relinquish the new Ŋgírì powers and return the cults group to a mere fraternity. Surprisingly in the background within the court, these recalcitrant princes had the full support of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv who was still nursing his own grudges against Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). So, more trouble was brewing for Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì in the background and it was not going to take long before it exploded in the open.
V-3. THE TORCHING OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN KIMBO IN 1920
Despite their tense relationship, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì collaborated fully in matters that threatened their mutual interests. In 1912, Catholic missionaries arrived the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ and the Fòn graciously received them and gave them a huge piece of land at Shisong, for their church and hospital. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì were not thrilled with this largesse from the Fòn towards the misssionaries. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì both saw these new comers (like the German soldiers) as a threat to their power and influence. Despite the Fòn’s explanation that the missionaries were not a threat, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì maintained their position especially after their meetings with Mfoome Ba’ and Nfoome Gham (leaders of the Manjoŋ war society) had convinced them that the missionaries were Germans who hailed from the same place as the German soldiers that had defeated Manjoŋ and killed the Fòn in 1907.
In a meeting with Ŋwéròŋ, Ŋgírì, Maŋjoŋ and the Councillors (Vibay), the Fòn came to a compromise and agreed that the missionaries should be confined to Shisong and not allowed to venture anywhere else. Luckily for the Nso’ traditionalists, Germany lost World War I and the activities of the missionaries were abruptly halted as all German missionaries were ordered out of The Cameroons. However, that suspension of missionary activities did not last for long because the Germans were replaced by French missionaries and evangelization resumed. The Christians even became more daring and expanded their activities to Kimbo where they built a church at Mbìvtinmbaŋ, less than a quarter of a mile from the Palace. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì could not stand the insult from the Christians any longer. They told the Fòn that they were going to burn the church down if he did not order the catechist Paul Taŋgwa (Ba’njav) to take his catechumens back to Shisong as had initially been agreed. The Fòn refused to oblige and Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì acted, and burned the whole church compound including the surrounding houses to the ground.
The ring leaders of the conspiracy to burn the church were Faáy Faanjaŋ (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Ba’ (Manjoŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Gham (Manjoŋ and Ŋwéròŋ), Sheey Tavtin of Mbiiŋgiy (Tav Ŋwéròŋ) and Faáy Bambùy (Tav Ŋgírì – not yet elevated to Shúufaáy in 1920). The catechist and his flock immediately reported the incident to the Fòn who was livid because he feared retaliation from the colonial administration in Bamenda. The Christians reported that it was Ŋwéròŋ under the leadership of Faáy Faanjaŋ that burned the church. The Fòn immediately summoned Faáy Faanjaŋ to the Court. When the other conspirators heard that Faáy Faanjaŋ had been summoned to the Palace, they all showed up in a delegation of more than twenty(20). Seeing the contingent and knowing what had happened to his predecessor Fòn Mapri (1907-1910), Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) must have been frightened. The Fòn asked the Christians if they could identify the Faáy Faanjaŋ that was standing before them as the culprit that torched the church building. They all said that the arsonist was a hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Kilumsi), but that they were convinced it was Faáy Faanjaŋ who was inside the mask. The Fòn then told them that since they could not identify the culprit, there was nothing he could do apart
from send all the suspects to the Colonial Administration for punishment and then help them rebuild their church.
After the Christians left the Fòn convinced his Councilors, especially Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv that the church had to be rebuilt. He reminded them of the disgraceful treatment the Germans had mitted to them a few years earlier after the Nso’-German war, and asked if they wanted a repeat. They all replied in the negative and he assisted the Christians to rebuild their church with no objections from any Councilor. Twelve culprits (including the above ring leaders) were sent to jail for two months and ordered to pay heavy fines. Even though he never converted to Christianity, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) was absolutely convinced according to his closest confidants that Christianity and the development it brought was good for his Kingdom.
Despite this brief incident of comity, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was short-lived.

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