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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.

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.
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”.
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.

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-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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Press Hour: What Can be done to get schools resume?

The hotted debate on Press hour this sunday started with the women’s day celebration that took place last Wednesday 8th March under the topic, what are they up to? The second part dealt entirely on the Anglophone crisis; The PM’s visit to the North West and resumption of schools. Invited as panelists, we have The Journalist Matute Menyelo, Tehwi Lambiv of CRTV, Hon. Naamukong Fusi MP Bafut and The Chairman of the GCE board Prof Peter Alange Abety.

The moderator Joe K started by saying that the women’s day is gradually taking up like a national holiday which is rather an International Day as the speakers could be heard challenging women to use this day more for education than celebration; that creating awareness on the plight of the women and fight for their rights was more important than parading the streets , drinking and partying till dawn. Prof Abety saw nothing wrong in celebrating citing that a lot of progress has been done. A compromise was arrived at giving the female (girl child) maximum education. some were of the thought that celebrations come with achievements and one could not see what the Cameroon women had achieved for the past 30 years and therefore more could be done to elevate the their plight. This debate took place without a lady taking part and talking on their behalf. Joe did acknowledge his attempts to get some in vain.

The second part of the debate was hitted and more on the Anglophone crisis taking cognissance with the visit of the Prime Minister Yang Philemon in the North West region for a 5 day session in 7 Divisions.

Joe started by stating that it was worrysome talking agin about schools resuming or effectively started agin despite that this had come up as many times as God alone can count yet a stumling block and big wall despite the PM’s visit.

Prof Abety took the floor stating that parents and teachers in the first place never wanted to keep the children at home from schools as he felts lots of concerns had been addressed and the trade union leaders had called off the strike. He went ahead to reiterate that as the GCE Board chair, he would go ahead to Organize the Exams despite the registration has witnessed more than 100,000 participants as compared to last.

His reason as he advanced was that not only students register for the GCE and that civil servants, and other groups of people do register for the exams to improve upon their grades or want to get promotion through those exams and that last year witnessed about 21,000 external candidates and such candidates could go ahead to sue them for not Organizing the Exams.

Hon. Fusi accused the Government for having the solution and yet refusing to provide and bring the crisis down to rest. He said we could not live in a country where people will cry for bread but yet be attacked, beaten, killed and arrested to unknown destinations. He said he could provide for evidences anytime and anyday and that children are living in the fear that they can not even go out to buy bread, how more can they go to school with such insecurity.

Tehwi Lambiv disagreed with the point raised by Prof. Abety to keep the chidlren out of the crisis to study while other issues are looked into. He said Education could not be isolated and that since Education is a basic human right, a secured and condusive atmosphere need to be provided for such and that this is not the case yet. He added that Goverment pushed people to exhaution with the hope that they will get tired and retire to nomalcy and give up. “You do not let people go into a coma before you begin treatment, preventive measures have to be taken.”Lambiv said.

Hon. Fusi when asked on the way forward questioned how many lives have been replaced, he insisted that people should be released, internet released, stop the arrests, withdraw the Military and most importantly that the government should read the documents from the Bishops and clergy and see what can be done. Last but not the least he requested for a 3rd party be it the Canadian Ambassador, British etc into a forum for dialogue and that once these people are brought together, good reflections will take place for principles and deadlines respected.

Lambiv said no teacher with a conscience will come to class when his or her colleague is in jail. Buea students and other university students will need the internet to do their research and students arrested will make others studying uncomfortable.

Matute cooncluded by requesting the father of the Nation President Biya to intervene and bring a solution himself. They stated that if the family has a problem, he can not let the first son to handle it, He can delegate powers of course but when they fail as is the case, he has the sole right to do something. “If the PM can spend 5 days in the North west and we still doubt the solution, then only the Big man can solve it himself”.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 3)


If you missed part 1 & 2 you can get them here and here:

Nso culture

Over the last 600 years cults have enjoyed a lot of power and assumed numerous functions in the administrative, political, social and cultural life of the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’. With the advent of colonialism, independence and the birth of the new nation state of the Cameroons, the role of these cults have evolved. In this section we examine the roles, responsibilities and functions of these cults as they existed then and as they obtain now.

The main functions of the Taa-Mbàn cult are:
 Royal mortuary services
 Cleansing of lineage heads/compounds
 Inquisitions of suspected witchcraft
 Exorcism of evil spirits and other abominations
 Conduct of expiatory (atonement) sacrifices
The Taa-Mbàn cult members are often assisted in their duties by lower court servants (Vimbaa and Vitan ve Ŋwéròŋ).
The Shishwaa cult performs mainly the following functions:
 Protecting Nso’ institutions from destruction
 Acting as State peace envoys and ambassadors
 Conducting appeasement sacrifices to keep famine at bay
 Preparing the State for periods of drought, infestations and low harvest
 Interceding with the Gods to keep devastating natural disasters at bay.
In addition to the seven Atárnto’ who were automatic members of the Shishwaa cult, other prominent Ŋwéròŋ Lords like Faáy Kuykishwang, Faáy Liiwong and others have been appointed into the Shishwaa cult and co-opted by Ŋwéròŋ as Atárnto’ of the second category.
The Ŋgírì cults group as a primarily fraternal cult has pretty limited responsibilities but performs the following roles:
 Junior traditional administrators (whenever assigned)
 Royal mortuary services (Vibay ve Dùy ve Kpù)
 Royal/member funeral services and celebrations
 Conduct of general state sacrifices (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri)
 Blessing of hunting expeditions (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri)
 Royal Hair care and manicure services (Vibay ve Dùy )
As we shall see below Ŋgírì has not always been happy with this limited role in State government and this has led to various clashes with Ŋwéròŋ.
Since its re-introduction into Nso’ society, the Ŋwéròŋ cults group has played a co-equal role with the Fòn in the administration of the state. As the saying goes “dze wong Fòn wun Ŋwéròŋ ” (the State belongs to the Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ).
The Ŋwéròŋ group has played principally the following roles:
 Executive arm of State government
 Senior Court Stewards and Priest (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 Guardians of the Royal household (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 Royal mortuary services (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 State regulatory officers (hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) as impartial state police)
 Royal messengers, envoys and emissaries
 Custodians of royal property (raffia palm bushes, kola nut trees, goats, chicken, etc.)

 Royal/member funeral services and celebrations
 Conductors of State Commerce and Trade
 Peace keeping and crime prevention
 Fire fighting and prevention
 State judiciary officers (with Vibay – State Councilors)
 Execution of death and other sentences
 Law enforcement officers (hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) as impartial state police)
 State sanitary inspectors
 Palace house keeping
 Management of palace reconstruction and maintenance repairs
 Managers of public works (road, bridge, public hall and other construction projects)
Over the years Ŋwéròŋ has done its best to keep this stranglehold on power to Ŋgírì’s detriment and with sometimes devastating consequences.
To the naïve observer, the Paramount Fòn of Nso’ appears to be the almighty Monarch whose word is law and whose decisions are final. That is how the Nso’ people would like the world to see their King, because the King is Nso’ and Nso’ is the King and the Nso’ think of themselves as the most powerful Kingdom of the Savannah grass fields. The reality is however different. As a wise people the Nso’ are painfully aware that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. For this reason, the Nso’ people in the last 600 years have put some real checks and balances on the power of the King, through the cults. The Taa-Mbàn and Ŋwéròŋ cults have the power to discipline the King for negligence of duty, autocratic behavior, recalcitrance or any other behavior unbecoming of a King. They may even judge, condemn and execute the King for treason or other serious high crimes and misdemeanors like extrajudicial murders, full incapacitation or complete dereliction of duty.
Ŋwéròŋ disciplines the Fòn through a process called “kur Fòn”, which literally means “tying the King”, but which in reality amounts to putting the Fòn under “House Arrest”. The King is not allowed to leave the Palace, and no one is allowed to visit him. The Palace is put on lockdown and only select Ŋwéròŋ pages (Nchiyselav) are allowed to enter or leave the Palace. No music or noise making is tolerated in the Palace or in the city within a certain perimeter from the Palace. Only Ŋwéròŋ is allowed to play some funeral and mournful music continuously until the situation is remedied. This continues for as long as it takes for the Fòn to repent, pay the stated fine and promise to act like a King deserving of Nso’ people going forward.
In recent years Fòns have been subjected to milder versions of this punishment, when they are summoned to the Ŋwéròŋ compound, put against the Ŋwéròŋ inner court wall, and literally scolded as if they were children.
Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) is the only King in recent memory who was subjected to an actual “kur Fòn”, during the early part of his reign when he had serious disagreements with his senior wives. He humbled himself greatly after that punishment.
The Taa-Mbàn cult disciplines the Fòn through a protest called “sah kifu ke Mntaár” or “sah Mntaár” in short, which means “Mntaár leaf protest”. When the Mntaár landowners are dissatisfied with the way the state is being run or with some Palace edicts or with the Fòn’s negligence of certain atonement and appeasement rites, they show their protest by their leaders coming together and invading the Palace in the early hours of the morning armed with nothing but plant leaves (usually the kikeng leaf – dracaena peace plant) in their hands. They silently stand in the open Palace square (Maandzә Ngay) until the King
comes out and addresses their grievances to their satisfaction. The King’s reaction on such occasions is usually very swift because the Taa-Mbàn cult members are “owners of the earth” (Atar Nsai) who could easily invoke the spirits of the ancestors to smite the King. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) and Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) are known to have endured this Mntaár protest during their reigns.
Cases where an actual King was judged, condemned and executed by Ŋwéròŋ and the Mntaár Lords are rare. Very often victims of such executions are ambitious princes who have attempted to usurp the throne. However in 1910 Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was executed because he had ordered the extrajudicial killings of some princes who were his rivals for the throne and of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (Tsәmaloŋ) when he disagreed openly with him. Ŋwéròŋ and Mntaár ordered his execution and Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was assassinated at Vikuùtsәn (near Sov) when he was on his way to pay royalties to the German colonial administration in Bamenda.

To be continued…

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)


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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 2)

Last week, i shared part 1 of the paper by Shey Shemlon Shighan Stephen on MEN OF TITLE, POWER, INFLUENCE AND CULT MEMBERSHIP IN THE PARAMOUNT KINGDOM OF NSO’. It was about SENIOR COURT COUNCILORS (VIBAY VÈ KOV) & COURT STEWARDS (ATÁRNTO’). Today we shall continue from where we stopped and if you missed part 1, do not worry as you can still read it here.

In the court there exists a class of councilors called the Great Lords of Sacrifice – all Dùy , whose role is religious (Vibay ve Ntaŋri). They are also in charge of the State mortuary services (Vibay ve Kpù). The most senior of these Lords by order of rank (1-7) are:
1. Shúufaáy Bashwin
2. Shúufaáy Njavnyùy
3. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv-ntìntìn
4. Shúufaáy Dzәm
5. Shúufaáy Bambùy
6. Shúufaáy Kooŋgir
7. Shúufaáy Taaway
All Vibay ve Dùy are princes of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty.
Since these Lords are of the extended Royal family they are some of the most senior members of the Ŋgírì Fraternal cults. As the lateral cult opposites of the Atárnto’ they are forbidden from membership in the Ŋwéròŋ cults. In recent times it appears this restriction on Vibay ve Dùy is being reviewed even though it has not been lifted by the Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ . It is however noteworthy that a few times in history some members have left the ranks of the Lords of Sacrifice in order to gain membership into the Ŋwéròŋ cults as un-restricted Lords. This happened during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-

1947) when Shúufaáy Tsenla’ Yer left the ranks of the Vibay ve Kpù to become a ngang (cult member of) Ŋwéròŋ.
Among the Advisors of the court is a special group of counselors that is given preferential treatment by the King (Fòn) because they are his in-laws. These Advisors are called Won Jemer ve Fòn (the Fòn’s sisters’ sons). All of them are of the aboriginal Mntaár lineages (or have been assigned) and are fathers of the Fòn’s mother. Here by rank (1-7) are the seven most senior Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba.
1. Faáy Nsà’me (aboriginal Mntaár)
2. Faáy Mbìvtinmbaŋ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kiluun prince claiming Fònship)
3. Faáy Ki’ Mbala Nsәәnè (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
4. Faáy Jèm Njavnyùy (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
5. Faáy Menjey e Tò’óy (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
6. Faáy Jèm Kiŋgá’ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
7. Faáy Ki’ Kiyán (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
In addition to the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), all seven Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba are members of the Taa-Mbàn expiatory cult.
Like the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), the Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba cannot be members of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults because of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. As noted earlier this is an unnecessary restriction nowadays and it may be time to consider lifting it given the unsavory consequences it has produced of late in Do’ Ruun and Do’ Ŋgvәn.
Over the years, many Men of Title have been elevated to the rank of State Councilors (Vibay). The membership of newly created or elevated Vibays in either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults is generally determined by whether they belong (or are assigned to) the Ncheèlav , Dùy or Mntaár lineages. There is a customary rule that all Dùy Vibay are members of the Ŋgírì cult, all Ncheèlav Vibay are members of the Ŋwéròŋ cult and all Mntaár Vibay are neither members of the Ŋwéròŋ nor Ŋgírì cults.
A Kibay’s (pl. Vibay) membership in both Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults is a matter of negotiations (that could take years), and some extreme intrigue that may be connected to some seemingly un-related events, individuals or lineages.
A look back at the history of the elevation of some of these honorable men to councilorship exposes some of the most intricate and entertaining machinations in social and political power positioning to ever rock the fabric of the Nso’ Paramount Fòndom.
After the Nso’ Palace was moved from Kovvifәm to its present location in Kimbo (before or around 1825), it took more than 100 years for a Court Councilor to be added to the ranks of the Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). This happened in 1929 during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). The State Councilor who was elevated was Shúufaáy Sov. Two surprising things happened during this elevation. Firstly, Shúufaáy Sov was elevated as a Mntaár Lord, despite the fact that everyone knew that the Sov lineage was Dùy. Secondly, to everyone’s surprise Shúufaáy Sov was also immediately made a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults group.
We have to take a century walk back in history to understand this apparent contradictory power play. When Sov joined Nso’ (around 1815, shortly before the move to Kimbo) under Faáy Seh, Sov was put under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv’s wing and the Sov lineage was considered Dùy. Faáy Seh’s successor Faáy Foinso’ fought hard to extract the Sov lineage from under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and establish his own identity. To help him do this the then Paramount King of Nso’ Fòn Tar Manjoŋ (1840-1875) who was Faáy Foinso’’s personal friend, attached Sov to the Ncheèlav lineages and made Sov a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ).

This did not sit very well with Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. Later, Faáy Foinso’ made the mistake of being too popular with Ŋwéròŋ and of also making unauthorized friendships with the Oku Fòndom and associated vassal states. Faáy Foinso’ was assassinated and the Sov lineage lost their Ŋwéròŋ cults membership in the aftermath. So, when Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) elevated Faáy Sov to Shúufaáy in 1929 and made him a ngang Ŋwéròŋ he was just giving Shúufaáy Sov what was his, almost a century before.
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv was very unhappy with the fact that Shúufaáy Sov was now both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults member. This led to friction between Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and the Paramount King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947), culminating in the Ndzәәndzәv Crisis of 1956 (finally settled in 1968).
Now, why was Shúufaáy Sov made a Mntaár Lord? Because, if he remained a Dùy Lord he would have been ranked 18th after the Lords of Sacrifice (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri). So Shúufaáy Sov was made the 4th ranking of the Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Mntaár Nso’) so that he could be the overall 11th Lord of the Court after the Ten Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). Shúufaáy Sov benefitted here from his personal friendship with the Fòn and from the fact that Ŋwéròŋ owed him payback as compensation for killing his father Faáy Foinso’ more than eight decades earlier. In addition, even though Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (the 1st ranking Councilor) was not happy with this elevation, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (the 2nd ranking Councilor) was elated because Faáy Sov had revenged the killing of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm during the infamous Nso’ war with Din around 1860. Then Faáy Sov (Ndzәmah) later led an expedition to Din around 1880, captured and decapitated the Fòn of Din, brought his skull to the Paramount Fòn of Nso’ and Manjoŋ (The War Society), and gave the Fòn of Din’s scabbard and staff to Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm as compensation for the loss of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who was Faáy Ndzәmah’s personal friend) in the Nso’-Din war of 1860.
Shúufaáy Sov’s elevation to Kibay opened the way for many more deserving men to be elevated to the rank of Councilor (Kibay), but their induction as dual members of both the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults was not always guaranteed as was the case with Shúufaáy Sov.
The case of Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Professor Nso’kika Bernard Fònlon) is an interesting edification of character and personal conviction that was once the hallmark of Nso’ Men of Title. Professor Fònlon was the unlikeliest of candidates for a Shúufaáyship. His parents were very devoute Catholic christains and Professor Fònlon himself almost became a Priest of the Catholic Church. So, Professor Fònlon’s devotion to the Nso’ traditional ways (which were considered heathen by his Catholic faith) could be considered at best tangential. However, in 1976 Professor Fònlon brought portable pipe-borne water to his people in the capital Kimbo and the then reigning King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) rewarded Professor Fònlon with the title of Faáy Ntoondzev, which was later elevated to Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Great Lord of the water source) by Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993).
As a Shúufaáy, Professor Fònlon was not interested in integrating either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults. Many believed this was due to his Catholic faith, but the reason was elsewhere. In the 1960s while Professor Fònlon was very active in The Cameroons partisan politics, he was appalled by the corrosive effects of partisanship on the traditional institutions of the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom. In 1965 Professor Fònlon wrote a book titled “To Every Son of Nso’” in which he admonished his brethren and called on them to keep politics out of the Palace, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. In the 1970s and 1980s when he was elevated to Shúufaáy he chose to practice what he preached. He decided that he was going to keep himself and his politics out of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì.

This did not go down well with both cults and with the Fòns who had elevated him, but Professor Fònlon stood firm on his decision. When Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv died in 1986, even though he had not gone through any of the traditional initiation rites of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993) ordered both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults to mourn Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv’s passing, and they did with aplomb.
In the last three decades, many worthy Men of Title have been elevated to the prestigious level of Shúufaáy. Some have sought initiation and acceptance into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults successfully, some have sought membership in both cults at the same time with varying degrees of success, and some are still waiting to be credentialed. In the ranks below them many who have already been initiated into either cults group are anxiously waiting to see if they could be elevated to Shúufaáy and given a chance to integrate into the other cults group.
Men of Title of ranks lower than Shúufaáy or Tárnto’ (aFaáy and aSheèy) who are not Mntaár generally belong to either Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults groups but not to both, except in extremely rare cases where such low ranking members may be members of both cults by Royal Appointment. As a general rule all Ncheèlav aSheèy and aFaáy belong to the Ŋwéròŋ cults group, all Dùy aFaáy and aSheèy belong to the Ŋgírì cults group, and the Mntaár aFaáy and aSheèy belong to neither cults group. Except in rare occasions, membership in both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults groups is often accompanied or preceded by elevation of the member to the rank of Shúufaáy.
As we have seen above, membership in the cults is very regimented. However, over the centuries Nso’ Kings have asserted their right (albeit very limited) to appoint members into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults who otherwise would not have been admitted under normal procedures.
After a new Fòn is installed in Ndzәәndzәv, he chooses a day to visit the senior Ŋwéròŋ cult Yeŋwéròŋ (Ŋwéròŋ Vitsée) for the first time. The new Fòn on this first visit is allowed to select up to two males of his choice (be they Dùy, Mntaár, Ncheèlav or even his brother princes) to accompany him. Whoever is chosen to accompany the Fòn on this occasion is inducted as a Yeŋwéròŋ cult member (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ). If the individual who is chosen to accompany the Fòn is not titled, they automatically become a Sheèy. If the individual is already a Ŋgírì cult member, they will become a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. So, it is possible to see a simple Sheèy who is a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults if they gained access by accompanying the Fòn on his first Ŋwéròŋ visit. If the individual who accompanies the Fòn during this first visit is a Faáy, they may be elevated to a Shúufaáy. In 1947 when Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was visiting Ŋwéròŋ for the first time he chose his brother prince Faáy Mbisha to accompany him. Faáy Mbisha was elevated to Shúufaáy Mbisha after that visit.
It was enshrined during the re-introduction of Ŋgírì into the Nso’ Palace in the 1890s that the Fòn could take whomever he choses along with him (carrying his bag or stool-kava) on the rare occasions he visited the Ŋgírì cults, and that the Fòn could send any high ranking official of the Court to represent him (in addition to Faáy Taawong) in the highest echelons of the Ŋgírì cults (Yeŋgírì). Over the years Ŋgírì has resisted this power of the Fòn but to no avail. This is how Faáy Faanjaŋ (a Tárnto’ and Ncheèlav) ended up as an executive of the Yeŋgírì cult. Some senior Palace pages and attendants (Nchiylav Faáy) also ended up as Ŋgírì cult members this way even though they were Ncheèlav. Sheèy Laisin who was an attendant to Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) ended up as a Ŋgírì cult member by accompanying the Fòn on one of those Ŋgírì visits, even though he was a Ncheèlav and already a Ŋwéròŋ cult member.

The latest example of Ŋgírì cult membership initiation by accompanying occurred in 2004 when Faáy Faa America visited the palace with Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) who was returning from medical treatment in the United States of America. Faáy Faa America (a Ncheèlav) who was carrying the Fòn’s bag accompanied the Fòn on his visit to the Ŋgírì cults. Faáy then became both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult member and was elevated to Shúufaáy Faa America.
The founder of the Nso’ Dynasty Ŋgonnso’ was a woman, so she was not a member of any of the male-only cults (including Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) that existed in the Tikar capital Rifem (Kimi or present day Bankim) when she led her followers out sometime after 1387. So Ŋgonnso’ and her followers did not take any of the State institutions (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) and their occultism along with them when they left Rifem even though these institutions were in existence because her two brothers Nchare Yen (founder of the Bamoun Dynasty in Foumban) and Mfombam (founder of the Ndjitam dynasty in Bafia) all left with these institutions.
The first cult that the Nso’ Dynasty really had then was the Taa-Mbàn cult that belonged to the Visale (Mntaár) and was preserved after the Nso’-Mntaár Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. This cult has gradually lost its power and influence as we have seen especially with the re-introduction of the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults.
It is not very clear when the Shishwaa cult was introduced. However since this was a cult, one of whose primary functions was to keep famine at bay, it can be conjectured that the Visale (Mntaár) must have had a variant of this cult before they merged with the Nso’ in 1411. The Shishwaa cult actually gained power and influence during the extended periods of drought, periods of protracted wars that led to famine, incidents of locust infestations that devastated crops, and periods of other natural disasters that brought about hunger. The Shishwaa cult was already very prominent and extremely powerful by the time the Nso’ left Kovvifәm around 1820 to settle in Kimbo.
The Ŋwéròŋ cults were re-introduced into Nso’ by the Taaŋkùm clan (an offshoot of the Tikars from Rifem also) sometime after 1450. Recently the Tsenla’ Mbam clan has claimed that even though Ŋwéròŋ may have been introduced by Taaŋkùm, Ŋwéròŋ was actually their occult (shiv) that the Taaŋkùm clan usurped. There is however no doubt that Taaŋkùm brought Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ because in Nso’ folklore and to this day, Ŋwéròŋ is still referred to as the Taaŋkùm occult (shiv ye Taaŋkùm).
The Ŋgírì cults were re-introduced around 1890 by the warrior King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907), after the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889. The Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) looted both the Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults and brought back occultist artifacts that were used to enhance the existing Ŋwéròŋ cults and to create the new Ŋgírì cults. The late re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults generated some resentment from Ŋwéròŋ and created a rift that still exists to this day as we shall see in the next part….

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 1)


Shey Stephen Shighan Shemlem PHD from S3 to S4 wrote a paper which i refer to as a compendium or a pamphlet on Men of title,Power, Influence & Cult Membership in the Great Paramount Kingdom of Nso in January 2011, posted on shundzev online forum precisely on the 31st of January. This was like a New year present to the Nso folks that year. This Paper covered close to 35 pages enough to be classified as a book.

A few years ago, following our debate on some of the Nso online groups and our culture, the classification and the misconception of the 7 and 10 Vibaays respectively, i thought that his works could be of immense assistance to many of us lovers of our roots to understand the rich and cherished culture the Nso kingdom us built upon.

Due to the many pages of the Material, i have decided to share them in parts maybe weekly to help grasp in detail and digest what he took pains to research and put on paper for posterity. This paper is therefore not my work but that if the person mentioned above.

Nso culture


This treatise examines the structure, roles, membership and responsibilities of Regulatory and Fraternal male-only societies in the administrative, social and political life of the Paramount Kingdom (Fòndom) of Nso’ in the Savannah grass fields of North Western Cameroons.
The Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ (founded by Princess Ŋgonnso’ around 1387) is the largest and currently the premier Kingdom of the Tikar race in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Kingdom is made up of the four sister Kingdoms of Nso’, Mbiame, Oku and Dom, (with the overall Paramount King resident in the Fòndom of Nso’), and vassal states like Ŋkar, Nsә’, the Noni Fòndoms and other smaller Fòndoms.
In all, a total of 25 (twenty five) Fòndoms make up the Paramount Fòndom of Nso’, with a current total population estimated to surpass one million citizens within and outside of the territory of the Paramount Fòndom also called Bui Division, in the North West Region of the Cameroons. Of these 25 Kingdoms, 4 are direct descendants and/or offshoots of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty. The other remaining 21 were integrated either voluntarily or forcefully between 1400 and 1890.
Here is a full listing of the Kingdoms of the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ with some annotated details:
Nso’ – Paramount – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty (circa 1387)
Mbiame – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshoot (circa 1575)
Oku – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshot (circa 1652)
Ŋkar (intgrated circa 1820)
Nsә’ (integrated circa 1850)
Kiluun (integrated circa 1830)
Ndzәrәm (integrated circa 1875)
Ndzәrәm Ŋyam (integrated circa 1875)
Ndzәәn (integrated circa 1830)
Gwan – Kitiiwum (integrated circa 1820)
Roŋ – Taasai-Mbam (integrated circa 1410)
Nchokov – Ndzәnnso’ (integrated circa 1410)
Gashoŋ – Ndzәnnso’ (integrated circa 1400)
Yun Din – Upper Din (integrated circa 1860)
Fònto Din – Lower Din (of Nso’ Legend – integrated circa 1884)
Djotin Kinengti (integrated circa 1860)
Djotin Fònti (integrated circa 1860)
Dom – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshoot (circa 1800)
Lassin (integrated circa 1860)
Ŋkor Korchi (integrated circa 1860)

Throughout this essay, the number seven (7) appears very prominently (and often) when discussing title and senior cult membership rankings. Since our research has not discovered any cultural, social or historical significance of the number 7 (samba) in the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom, we can only conjecture that since all decisions of either the councilors or cult leaders were made by majority consensus, the odd number 7 was chosen for the number of senior decision makers to prevent any possibility of deadlock in decision making.
We may appear vague in our analysis at times considering our hands may be tied and we are forbidden from exposing certain cult secrets, but we remain explicit enough for the reader to understand the points we are attempting to clarify. Some details may be shocking to the non-Nso’ observer but rest assured that some of what is said here was last practiced more than 100 years ago.
We start by examining the administrative setup of the Kingdom to understand the role of the Court Councilors (Vibay or aShúufaáy), the Court Stewards (Atárnto’), other Title Holders (aFaáy, aSheèy), and their membership in the cults. We further examine each of the cults in detail to elucidate what membership entails.
The responsibilities and societal expectations of Men of Title and guardians of the occult are higher than those of regular mortal men of the society, so we shall include a section on these societal obligations with explanations of the reasoning behind them.
A lot has been said about the degradation of Nso’ culture and we conclude this essay with some suggestions of a few remedies which from our point of view can modernize Nso’ culture while ensuring its survival for the next 500 years.
Please note that in this write-up, some of our Lamnso’ language forays may not be in strict conformity with the latest directives from the Nso’ Language Society. Despite the fact that we have tried our best to respect these directives and delayed the release of this paper to ensure conformity, we are painfully aware that some avid readers may still find issues of concern, so we sincerely crave your indulgence for these orthographic variations. You will also notice that we combine both British and American syntax (including Pidgin), something that may be considered sacrilegious by some English language aficionados.

In this section we examine Title Holders by lineage in three categories:
  Dùy (Extended Royal Family)
  Ncheèlav (Commoners and Retainers)
  Mntaár (Visale – Free Commoners and Aboriginal Nso’ Landowners)
Title Holders belong to all three categories above and their ranks range from the highest Kibay (pl. Vibay) or Shúufaáy to the lowest Sheèy. The Title Holder’s membership in a cult is however not only determined by whether they are Dùy , Ncheèlav or Mntaár, but also by other intricate considerations.
The cults in the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ are divided into four groups (two principal and two subsidiary cults):

o Ŋwéròŋ Cults:
 Principal cult grouping
 Regulatory in nature
 Members are mostly Ncheèlav with some Dùy and some Mntaár
 Has Masquerades
o Ŋgírì Cults:
 Principal cult grouping
 Fraternal in nature
 Members are mostly Dùy with some Mntaár and very few Ncheèlav
 Has Masquerades
o Taa-Mbàn Cult:
 Subsidiary cult
 Expiatory in nature
 Membership is exclusively Mntaár
 Has no Masquerades
o Shishwaa Cult:
 Subsidiary cult
 Interlocutory in nature
 Membership is exclusively Ncheèlav
 Has no Masquerades

We now examine each of the title groups and their cult membership with a view to understanding the power base of each cult as determined by membership.

The highest ranking administrative civilian authority or Title Holder next to the King (Fòn) in the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’, is the Court Councilor who is called a Kibay (pl. Vibay) or Shúufaáy (pl. aShúufaáy) . The highest ranked aShúufaáy are the original ten lords from Kovvifәm (Vibay vè Kov – Vibay ve tiy se taakibu) who came as Kings (Fòns) or senior princes between 1450 and 1800, and submitted their people and culture to be integrated into Nso’.
Here below in order of rank (numbers 1-10) and category are the ten Vibay ve Kov.
Dùy (The Seven Great Lords – Vibay ve Samba)
1. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
2. Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
6. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәvtsәn (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
7. Shúufaáy Yùúwar (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
8. Shúufaáy Shùv (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
9. Shúufaáy Lùn (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kiluun prince claiming Fònship)
10. Shúufaáy Waiŋsәәri wo Yer (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)

Mntaár (The Three Aboriginal Great Lords – Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár)
3. Shúufaáy Tsenla’ (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
4. Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
5. Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm automatically belong to both the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults because they are respectively the Second and Third ranking civilian personalities in the land. Before their enstoolment (installation) a candidate for Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv or Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (like the candidate for the Kingship – Fònship) because he is of the Dùy lineage, is generally a member of the Ŋgírì cults. Upon installation he automatically belongs to the Ŋwéròŋ cults pending performance of the initiation rites.
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv Tsen, Shúufaáy Yùúwar, Shúufaáy Shùv, Shúufaáy Lùn and Shúufaáy Waiŋsәәri wo Yer are all members of the Ŋgírì cults by virtue of their belonging to the extended Royal family Dùy. Their membership in the Ŋwéròŋ cults even though guaranteed because they are Vibay is still a matter of negotiation. Upon completion of the negotiations (that may last years) they then become members of the Ŋwéròŋ cults pending performance of the initiation rites. Shúufaáy Lùn surprisingly appears to have some prerogatives with the Ŋwéròŋ cults that appear to place him in rank above the other four aShúufaáy listed above.
There have been a few instances when membership of one of the above in the Ŋwéròŋ cults was revoked (albeit temporarily). The latest case was Shúufaáy Yùúwar whose Ŋwéròŋ cults membership was revoked after he had a dispute with the King, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1983-1993). Shúufaáy Yùúwar was temporarily replaced in the Court by Shúufaáy Tsәn Ŋkar. The revocation of Ŋwéròŋ cults membership is said to have led to Shúufaáy Yùúwar’s untimely death.
The three Aboriginal Mntaár Lords (Shúufaáy Tsenla’, Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun and Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn) are neither members of the Ŋwéròŋ nor the Ŋgírì cults, even though the same is not necessarily true for other newly elevated Court Councilors who have been assigned to the Mntaár lineage. This non-belonging of the leading Mntaár Lords is an extension of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411 between Nso’ and the Visale (Mntaár) that balanced power between the three branches of the State: Ncheèlav (Regulatory), the Mntaár (Land Ownership) and the King with his Dùy Royal family (Administrative). It was agreed sometime after 1450 when the Ncheèlav acquired the Ŋwéròŋ cults, that making the Mntaár (represented now by their three Lords) part of the Ŋwéròŋ cults would give them too much power especially since they had also ascribed to themselves parental rights to the mothers of all future Kings. When Ŋgírì was introduced the same restrictions on the Mntaár Lords were extended to Ŋgírì.
This automatic exclusion of the highest ranking Mntaár Lords from the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults has however produced some vexing disputes over the years when the Mntaár Lords have agitated and claimed the rights to have their own branches of the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. A few decades ago (1970s/1980s) this led to the Maakibu Masquerade Crisis that pitted Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun against Ŋwéròŋ and the Paramount King. The issue was peacefully resolved and Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun retained his Maakibu masquerade but with very high restrictions on where the masquerade could go and how its members could decorate themselves on Maakibu outings. Recently however the Do’ Ŋgvәn Crisis of 2010 did not end so well. When Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn decided to create his own Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults, the reaction from Ŋwéròŋ was swift. His compound was destroyed and he was forced to seek refuge with one of his children (sub-lineage Faáy) in Kikaikom. The Cameroon administration and the Paramount King of Nso’ are still investigating the incident.

The Three Aboriginal Lords are however members of the Taa-Mbàn cult. This is arguably a toothless cult with no masquerades, whose expiatory powers and influence have waned over the years. Since the conditions of 1411 have greatly evolved in the last 600 years it may be a good idea to revisit the Kovvifәm Agreements and 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).
The Ncheèlav Palace Stewards (Atárnto’) are part of the commoner/retainer class even though some of them actually came as Kings (Fòns) or senior princes. The most senior Stewards in the Court are the Seven Ŋwéròŋ Stewards (Atárnto’ ve Samba), listed below in order of seniority (1-7
1. Faáy Maàmo (joined Nso’ as a renegade Babessi prince claiming Fònship)
2. Faáy Faanjaŋ (came with Ŋgonnso’ from Rifem in 1387)
3. Faáy Mbiiŋgiy (original Mntaár who later absorbed renegade Mbisey and Kijem princes)
4. Faáy Kùynto’ Ncheèlav (former Palace retainer and Ŋwéròŋ page)
5. Faáy Kùynsә’ (renegade Mbiame prince with matrilinial ties to the Nsә’ Fòndom)
6. Faáy Tsәnkày (former Palace retainer with ties to the Ndzәәn Fòndom)
7. Faáy Nsәәnè (joined Nso’ as a renegade Mbiame prince claiming Fònship)
Since the Atárnto’ are the most senior members of the Ŋwéròŋ Regulatory Society (including the cults) they are forbidden from belonging to the Ŋgírì cults as part of the agreement that separates the Regulatory cults (Ŋwéròŋ ) from the Fraternal cults of the Royal Family (Ŋgírì). This separation can still be traced to the extensions of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. However given a little unknown power of the Fòn that we shall examine below, some Atárnto’ have at times in history been appointed to play prominent roles in the Ŋgírì cults.
All Seven Ŋwéròŋ Stewards (Atárnto’ ve Samba) are also members of the all important interlocutory cult called Shishwaa.

To be continued



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