Category Archives: Nwerong

Cameroon: Nso: Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 3) Fai

If you missed part one on Nso Titles, do not worry, you can still read part 1 here; and part 2 here;


The highest rank of Fai is the Atarntoh (all Nchelav), with the “Atarntoh ve Samba”, leading this group. These are family heads of some of the most influential lineages in Nso. In Fact some of them actually submitted themselves to Nso as Fons between 1450 and 1800, but it is unknown why they were made Nwerong leaders instead of Duy or Mtaar Vibai.

Unlike the Vibai who are councilors of the court, the primary role of the Atarntoh is that of Palace stewards, priests and guardians of the royal household. Atarntoh also sometimes act as advisers to the Fon.

In addition, the Atarntoh are members of the “Shishwaa” society whose principal duty is to keep Nso land free of famine. “Shishwaa” members are also responsible for protecting Nso institutions from any destruction and also act as the Fon’s peace envoys.

Here in order of seniority are the “Atarntoh ve Samba

1. Fai Maamo (Nchelav)

2. Fai Faanjang (Nchelav)

3. Fai Mbingiy (Nchelav/Mtaar)

4. Fai Kuyntoh Nchelav (Nchelav)

5. Fai Kuynseh (Nchelav)

6. Fai Tsenkay (Nchelav)

7. Fai Nseeni (Nchelav)

All “Atarntoh ve samba” are only lower in rank to the ten (10) ” Vibai ve tiy se taakibu”.

The next category of Fais is the “Won jemer se Fon” (the Fon’s sisters’ sons). Since most of these are Mtaar (aboriginal Nso), they have a separate quarter called TaaMban (next to Nwerong’s compound). Their principal duty is to carry out inquisitions, expiatory sacrifices and cleansing rituals.

Here in order of seniority are the Fai “Won jemer ve samba

1. Fai Nsame (Mtaar)

2. Fai Mbivtinmbang (Mtaar)

3. Fai Kii Mbala Nseeni (Mtaar)

4. Fai Jem Njavnyuy (Mtaar)

5. Fai Menjey Tooy (Mtaar)

6. Fai Jem Kinga (Mtaar)

7. Fai Kii Kiyan (Mtaar)

All “Won jemer se Fon” are higher in rank to ” Vibai ve duy ve kpu”.

The last category of Fais are lineage or sub-lineage heads. There are scores of Fais (too many to be listed) in this category and are drawn from all the segments of Nso society the commoners (Nchelav), the aboriginals (Mtaar) and the extended royal family (Duy). All Fais in this category are lower in rank to all Vibais, the Atarntohs and “Won jemer”

The process of en-stooling is elaborate, grande and very public, whether the Fai assumes the stool by inheritance, extension (“kisheer”), elevation (from Shey) or appointment by the Fon (fhum or buh).

Shey Stephen Shemlon (PHD)

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Nso Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 2) Shufai


Administratively the Shufai is the highest authority that is next in rank to the Fon. The Shufai belongs to the select council of “taakibu” advisors of the Fon.

The highest ranked Shufais are the original ten lords from Kov Vifem (Vibai ve Kov). They sit on stones (instead of stools) in the Fon’s court to signify their permanence as advisors to the Fon. All of the ten lords from Kov Vifem came as Fons between 1450 and 1800 and submitted their people and culture to be integrated into Nso.

Here below in order of rank are the  ten Vibai ve Kov Vifem (Vibai ve tiy se taakibu):

1. Shufai Ndzendzev (Duy)

2. Shufai Tankum (Duy)

3. Shufai Tsenla (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Do Run (Mtaar)

5. Shufai Do Ngwen (Mtaar)

6. Shufai Ndzendzev Tsen (Duy)

7. Shufai Yuuwar (Duy)

8. Shufai Shuv (Duy)

9. Shufai Lun (Duy)

10. Shufai Wainseeri wo Yer (Duy) <—- about to change

It should be noted here that in matters of state duties Yah Yefon (Fon’s mother – the queen mother or her  representative) is ranked third after Shufai Ndzendzev and Shufai Tankum.

Because of the pacts drawn at Kov Vifem before the palace was moved to Kimbo, it was very difficult  for any Fon to promote any Fai or newly arriving Fons to the rank of Kibai. The ten Shufais from Kov Vifem fought very hard to maintain their number at ten from 1825 when the palace moved to Kimbo until the reign of Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947).

Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) insisted on increasing the council of advisors to include Fais with a broader view of the modern world that Christianity and European colonialism were bringing and to better advise the Fon on matters of Education, Trade, Commerce and Industry. Despite stiff resistance from the ten Vibai Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) convinced Nwerong of the necessity to increase the number of “taakibu” councilors and in 1929 he elevated Fai Sov to the rank of Kibai.

This elevation angered the most senior Kibai (Shufai Ndzendzev) so much that a rift was created with the Fon. This rift ran for the next three decades and resulted in the Ndzendzev crisis of 1956/1957. Despite this, the1929 elevation of Fai Sov opened the door for the elevation of other Fais to the rank of Kibai.

Here in order of seniority (year of elevation) are the Shufais that were elevated by Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947), Sehm III (1947 – 1972), Ngah Bifon II (1972 –1983) and Ngah Bifon III (1983 – 1993).

1. Shufai Sov (Mtaar)

2. Shufai Nkavikeng (Duy)

3. Shufai Kuy Meliim (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Ngangndzen (Mtaar)

5. Shufai Nsaansa (Duy)

6. Shufai Mbisha (Duy)

7. Shufai Kuyla Yer (Mtaar)

8. Shufai Kii Kitiwum (Mtaar)

9. Shufai Rookov (Mtaar)

10.Shufai Nkim Vekovi (Mtaar)

There is a third category of Vibai that are all of the extended royal family (Duy). These Vibai are considered lower in rank to Fai Taawong and Yah Yeewong. They play the role of state councilors of sacrifice and are also prominently in charge of the Fon’s burial.

Here in order of seniority are the seven Vibay ve Kpu:

1 Shufai Bashwin (Duy)

2. Shufai Njavnyuy (Duy)

3. Shufai Ndzendzev Ntintin (Duy)

4. Shufai Dzem (Duy)

5. Shufai Bambuy (Duy)

6. Shufai Koongir (Duy)

7. Shufai Taaway (Duy)

Only an existing Faiship can be elevated to a Shufaiship. Neither the Fon nor Nwerong can create a new compound or lineage and immediately elevate it to a Shufaiship. The process is complicated and drawn. The Fon must not only obtain the consent of the other Vibai (willingly or by coercion), he must get the consent of both Nwerong and Ngiri who must admit the new Shufai as a “ngang” Ngiri and/or “ngang” Nwerong.

In addition to these impediments the Fon must also contend with the “parents” (extended family and lineage) of candidates for elevation to a Faiship or a Shufaiship or for a newly created Faiship. It is considered an affront on a lineage for the Fon or Nwerong to attempt to elevate a Faiship to a rank that will be considered higher than that of his fatherly lineage. This is largely due to the tacit agreement in Nso society that someone cannot inherit a Faiship or Shufaiship when his father is still alive. This would be interpreted as an attempt to kill the father. For this reason a new Faiship cannot be created or elevated  without authorization from the “father” Faiship to create the new “Kisher” (extention) of the family lineage.

This haggling with lineage heads on elevations and awards even occurs between the Fon and his own brothers of the extended royal  family (Duy). When the Fon attempted to replace Shufai Tsenla Yer with Shufai Bambuy in the rank of “Vibai ve Kpu”, he faced a revolt from almost half of the royal family despite the fact that Fai Bambuy was the descendant of a Fai Taawong. The Fon finally won the day with support from the senior Vibai and Shufai Tsenla Yer lost his position in the “Vibai ve Kpu” ranks, but retained his Shufaiship and in addition gained the title of Ngang Nwerong, a title which was not automatically granted to the “Vibai ve Kpu”.

As shown above Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) defied all odds to elevate the Sov lineage to a Shufai. Other Fons following him encountered similar problems. When Fon Sehm III (1947-1972) attempted to create a new Faiship with Professor Nsokika Bernard Fonlon as head, Fonlon’s extended lineage of Jem objected. It took until Ngah Bifon II (1972 – 1983) to reward Fonlon with a Faiship (Fai Ntoondzev), after he and Nwerong convinced Jem that Fonlon was no longer their son but a symbol of Nso given his relations with the external world that permitted him to interact with big world leaders like the Canadian Prime-Minister and bring portable water to Kimbo. The pressure was too much for the Jem lineage to bear. They relented and Fonlon became Fai Ntoondzev.

Professor Bernard N Fonlon

A few years after the creation of the Ntoondzev Faiship, Ngah Bifon II (1972 -1983) attempted to elevate it to a Shufaiship but failed. This time the strong objections came from Nwerong who felt elevating a Nchelav Faiship to a Kibai would diminish the power of the Atarntohs in “taakibu”. It took until Ngah Bifon III (1983-1993) for Nwerong to be convinced that the same reasons that necessitated the elevation of Sov in 1929 could be equally compelling in the elevation of a Nchelav Fai to a Shufai. Nwerong accepted the argument and Ntoondzev was elevated to a Shufaiship a few years before Fonlon died in 1986.

Here  is the list of Shufais in the recent category discussed above:

1. Shufai Tsenla Yer (Duy)

2. Shufai Rookov Meluf (Mtaar)

3. Shufai Kiron (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Tsen Nkar (Duy)

5. Shufai Keeri (Mtaar)

6. Shufai Ntoondzev – Fonlon (Nchelav)

7. Shufai Kuyntoh Wonntoh (Duy)

8. Shufai Taankum Kuy (Duy)

Ntoondzev’s  elevation to Shufai opened the way for other Nchelav Faiships to be elevated to Shufaiships. The case of Shufai Langhee is notable  among Nchelav Shufaiships not only because Nwerong outwitted the Fon but because of the astonishing collaboration between Nwerong and Ngiri to achieve this.

Langhee was a Nwerong page who went through the traditional palace stewardship of nine (9) years. He graduated automatically as a Shey and started the Langhee lineage. When the original Shey Langhee died, the Langhee Sheyship was elevated to a Faiship and his son Professor Chem Langhee who succeeded him as the first Fai Langhee quickly rose in Nwerong ranks. He endeared himself to the extended royal family by marrying a princess. Fon Ngah Bifon III (1983 – 1993) whose daughter Fai Langhee married attempted unsuccessfully to elevate Fai Langhee to a Shufai after his success with Ntoondzev. The other Vibai strongly objected because in their eyes “Chem Langhee was no Fonlon”. However, an unusual collaboration of Ngiri and Nwerong convinced Fon Sehm Mbinglo I (1993 – Present) to elevate Langhee to a Shufai.

This unusual but welcomed collaboration of Nwerong and Ngiri was recently aired again when in 2003 Fon Sehm Mbinglo I (1993 – Present) saw the need for a Fai in the American diasporas and created Faa America Faiship. In 2004 when Fai Faa visited the palace with the Fon who was returning from medical treatment in the United States of America, both Nwerong and Ngiri wanted to have the charismatic Fai Faa America as a “ngang”. So, in a strange chain of events, they tricked both the Fon and Fai Faa to commit Fai Faa as both a Ngiri and a Nwerong member. The only way to resolve the issue was for Fai Faa America to be a “ngang” Ngiri and a “ngang” Nwerong. To do this, the Fon had to elevate the Faiship of Faa America to a Shufaiship. Negotiations for this elevation took two (2) years because of some resistance from the Vibai despite the fact that the Fon really had no choice when confronted with the Nwerong and Ngiri political chicanery. Shufai Faa America completed his en-stoolment and “kibunfon” as the newest Kibai in December 2006.

As we can see from above, the elevation of a Nchelav (commoner) to a Shufaiship is rare, but some have been elevated in recent times to increase the realm of the Fon’s councilors.

Here is a list of some recent Nchelav elevations to Shufai:

1. Shufai Kuy Ka (Nchelav)

2. Shufai Langhee (Nchelav)

3. Shufai Taashiv (Nchelav)

4. Shufai Kitav (Nchelav)

5. Shufai Faa America (Nchelav)

Elevation to the rank of Shufai is a very public event that involves the whole palace, Nwerong, Ngiri , Duy, Nchelav and the public. The preparations take time, the celebration is grand and the event is registered in public memory. The “kibunfon” of the new Shufai is memorable and is generally followed by a “tee shishur she Ngiri” or “tee shishur she Nwerong”,  a “fum mfuuh” and a grand “kitar yiy” for the family.

We shall in the next part examine the title of Fai which is next in rank to the Shufai, with some  Fais (especially Atarntohs) having functional and administrative ranks that are higher than some Shufais.

Shey Stephen Shemlon (PHD)

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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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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 :

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”.
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.
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).
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:

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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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