V-4. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ŊGÍRÌ COMPOUND IN 1935
Sometime in the mid 1930s, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was shattered. During a mortuary ceremony at Ki’ Kingomen by the Ŋwéròŋ cult, members of the Ŋgírì cult appeared even though they were not invited and seized the drinks that were reserved for Ŋwéròŋ cults members (ki bi la Ŋgírì ngwaah bo wu no bvee king – who even invited Ŋgírì to this party before they made this mess). The Ki’ clan was able to calm nerves and the ensuing scuffle was brought under control. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv was expected to reprimand the Ŋgírì group for this affront on Ŋwéròŋ and he did not. Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) was livid, especially because the princes who led this affront on Ŋwéròŋ were the principal contestants to his sitting on the throne and dared to boast that Ki’ Kingomen was the beginning of their power grab with the throne as their ultimate target.
Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) demanded an explanation from Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv that Shúufaáy refused to provide. In addition instead of reporting to the Palace Court to see the Fòn as was required that week, Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv went to the Ŋgírì compound. This was the last straw. The Fòn then went back to Ŋwéròŋ and ordered an attack on Ŋgírì. A major Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì clash ensued and Ŋwéròŋ burned the Ŋgírì compound to the ground and banned Ŋgírì from the Nso’ Palace. Tensions were high and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv in the following dry season did not perform sacrifices for the millet harvest (jang saar). The Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ had enough of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv’s obstinate tirades.
The Fòn openly invoked the occultist powers to smite Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. The spirits obliged and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (Nsairun) died in September 1935. The Ndzәәndzәv lineage never forgave the Fòn for the death of their young Shúufaáy and this incident festered on to the 1956 Ndzәәndzәv Crisis (settled in 1968).
It took another Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (Shaafee) and the next decade before peace was re-established and the Ŋgírì cults were re-instated. The members of the Ŋgírì cult accepted their subordinate status to Ŋwéròŋ, continued their existence as a fraternity of princes and everything progressed peacefully until 1947 when another progressive prince Sheèy Wan Nto’ Mbinkar Mbiŋlo was enthroned as the King Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972). Ŋgírì saw the opportunity and attempted to regain their old glory and power under Fòn Mapri (1907-1910). Unlike his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was very tactful in handling the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì conflict. He gradually increased Ŋgírì’s power and influence without alienating Ŋwéròŋ, but the rivalry still boiled to the surface after a decade of apparent peace.
V-5. THE PALACE FIRE DISASTER OF 1956
The festering Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì dispute may have claimed another casualty, this time dismaying the whole Kingdom. On December 24th, 1956, a mysterious fire started at the Ŋwéròŋ compound section of the Palace and quickly engulfed the whole Palace in flames. Even though the Ŋwéròŋ people could not prove it, they accused the Ŋgírì cults of burning their compound in retaliation for the 1935 destruction of the Ŋgírì compound. Ŋgírì vehemently denied the charges especially given that the retaliatory effort had caused the destruction of the whole Palace except the Ŋgírì compound which was a little removed from the rest of the Palace structures.
Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was however quietly elated by the destruction of the Palace. In fact he named the first son who was born into the extended Royal Family after this incident Beri Ngaa Ton (thanks to the arsonist). Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) saw this as an opportunity to reconstruct a modern Palace and he ordered his whole Kingdom to build him a befitting Palace comparable to the Bamoun Palace in Foumban. The Nso’ people took the challenge and the great Nso’ Palace Reconstruction Project (which is still ongoing today) was started. The Reconstruction Project took attention away from petty squabbles and kept the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì conflict at bay for another decade.
V-6. BAA GWAR ŊGÍRÌ OF KOOŊGIR
Like Ŋwéròŋ’s Yeŋwéròŋ (mother of Ŋwéròŋ ) cult, Ŋgírì also had a Yeŋgírì (mother of Ŋgírì) cult, with the difference that the Yeŋgírì cult was just occultist (shiv) without a display masquerade like Yeŋwéròŋ had. In 1967 things changed. The Yeŋgírì cult decided to create their display masquerade. The inaugural ceremony chosen for the masqerade was the death celebration of Shúufaáy Kooŋgir, a senior Lord of Sacrifice (Kibay ke Dùy ke Ntaŋri). Ŋwéròŋ was enraged by this development and lodged a complaint with the King Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) but the Fòn refused to intervene.
Ŋwéròŋ diplomatically convinced one of Shúufaáy Kooŋgir’s sons that if they allowed the Yeŋgírì masquerade to display during their father’s funeral all the male children of the lineage would die mysteriously. Shúufaáy’s son, Mr. Anthony Suila (Baa Anthony Gwar Ŋgírì – Baa Anthony the Ŋgírì slayer) warned Ŋgírì not to display the Yeŋgírì masquerade but they were determined to do it. So when the Yeŋgírì masquerade attempted to display, Baa Gwar Ŋgírì swung to action with a machete and threatened to behead the Yeŋgírì masquerade. In the commotion that followed Yeŋgírì was saved in extremis and Ŋgírì left the Kooŋgir compound in broad daylight (all cults travel only at night) and retired to the palace in disgraceful disarray. This was sacrilegious, with Ŋgírì cult members raging mad and Ŋwéròŋ laughing all the way back to their quarters. This not withstanding Yeŋgírì was saved and has survived with a display masquerade to this day. The Ŋgírì members did not forgive Ŋwéròŋ for this humiliation that has remained in Nso’ folklore with Baa Gwar Ŋgírì as the ultimate vilain. This incident kept the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì squabbles alive for the next four decades.
Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was able to contain the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì rivalry till the end of his reign. Before he joined the ancestors however he did something remarkable. In negotiation with the Bamouns, he agreed to absorb all Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults with their occultist accoutrements when the Bamoun acknowledged to him that they no longer had the wherewithal to preserve this Tikar culture. The Ŋwéròŋ cult refused to accept any new Bamoun occultism except what was going to enhance their Kinghaayasi, Jwiŋwéròŋ and Yeŋwéròŋ cults, and threatened to retaliate if the Fòn gave anything further to the Ŋgírì cults. Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) ignored Ŋwéròŋ and started the upgrade of Ŋgírì with additional Bamoun occultism, but died and left the task to be completed by his successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983).
V-7. THE PALACE MAYHEM OF DECEMBER 1976
In 1972 a new King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) was crowned. To complete the task left to him by his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972), he first had to prove to Ŋwéròŋ and Manjoŋ (the war society) that he was the overall Paramount and that his word and his decisions were final. In 1975, without consultation Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) returned Bamoun King Nsaŋgou’s (1863-1889) cap-and-crown that was captured in the 1885-1889 Nso’-Bamoun war when King Nsaŋgou (1863-1889) was beheaded. When Ŋwéròŋ and Manjoŋ objected the Fòn informed them that it was the price to be paid to keep the Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cult artifacts that his predecessor Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) had accepted. He also informed Ŋwéròŋ that he was about to complete the handing of the five (5) Bamoun cults/masquerades that Ŋwéròŋ had refused to keep [Moo (Taa Maandzә), Nchiy Kibah (Yeye Boy), Moomvem (Mbiy a Bami), Shiŋwar Ndzә and Rifem] to the Ŋgírì group. Despite Ŋwéròŋ’s vehement objections, he did and re-opened old wounds. The Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud was re-ignited with a new ferocity worst than that of the previous four decades.
On December 26th, 1976 during a dual death celebration, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì did everything in their power to coordinate the outing displays of their masquerades to avoid any face-to-face encounters of their masquerades in the open public court at the Palace square. But trouble had been brewing for more than a year and there were trouble makers eager to start a fight on both sides. The Ŋgírì group’s Wanmabu masquerade came out to display when the Ŋwéròŋ group’s Kibaraŋko masquerade was still out. The two masquerades met in open square and a confrontation ensued. The Kibaraŋko masquerade hit the Wanmabu masquerade with its club (kimbuh) so hard that Wanmabu almost fell. In retaliation Wanmabu hit Kibaraŋko’s huge head so hard that it almost fell off. To the Ŋwéròŋ members this was beyond sacrilegious. An open fight broke out in the Palace square. If you were a Ŋgírì member you looked for the nearest Ŋwéròŋ member you could beat and punched the living daylight out of him, and vice versa for the Ŋwéròŋ members. It was open mayhem.
After making sure that Kibaraŋko had safely retreated to the Ŋwéròŋ compound, the Ŋwéròŋ young men decided that the best way to end this feud for good was to capture Ŋgírì’s Wanmabu as a Ŋwéròŋ kintan (captive Ŋwéròŋ hopper). Wanmabu sensed the danger. Since Wanmabu’s path back to Ŋgírì’s compound was blocked, Wanmabu ran to the Queens’ and Wives’ quarters (Vikiynto’ Ŋsan). The Fòn’s wives were openly hostile to Wanmabu because in their view Ŋgírì started the fight (“aa du fe? bo yo ke ven vindzeh vin aa?” – where are you going? didn’t you guys start this fight?). The Vikiynto’ went after Wanmabu with their clubs (mbangsi). Wanmabu ran for its dear life. Since Wanmabu knew the Ŋwéròŋ young men were after him and all his paths had been blocked he headed straight for the inner Court of the Palace (Taa Kibu). Unfortunately for Wanmabu the Fòn was not in. However, luckily for it the Nso’ people respect the Royal Stool (Kava) even more than they respect the King (Fòn). So, Wanmabu dove under the Kava, held it firmly with both hands and remained there. There was nothing the Ŋwéròŋ boys could do. They just stood there and waited because they knew Wanmabu would have to leave for the Ŋgírì compound at some point. The frustrated Ŋwéròŋ boys however did not wait quietly. They taunted Wanmabu with words like “kinga ke shiv vikiy ki mo ki ke ki pen shu. ver yi yen mo aa yi goh sar Kava” (cowardly women’s masquerade that wears lipstick makeup. we shall see how you will remain under the Royal Stool). Wanmabu held its ground and remained under the Kava, patiently waiting to be rescued.
Unbeknown to the Ŋwéròŋ fellows someone notified Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and senior Ŋwéròŋ leaders about what was happening. When these elders got to the Palace all hell broke loose. In a matter of minutes a new set of about fifty (50) hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) came out with whips and dispersed the crowds from the Palace square including the Ŋwéròŋ boys who were in the inner Palace Court waiting for Wanmabu to leave the Kava. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Faáy Faanjaŋ escorted Wanmabu back to the Ŋgírì compound. Yes, the grownups were around and calm returned to the Palace.
When things returned to normal on that day, half a dozen individuals were sent to the hospital. When the Fòn came back to the Palace and learned of the events that had occured, he was infuriated. He summoned both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì to the Palace Court and imposed huge fines on them. Even Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Faáy Faanjaŋ were fined for their failure to prevent the incident and for the amount of time it took them to quell the mayhem. After the fines were paid some sanity returned to both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì for at least two decades.
V-8. THE FELLING OF THE PALACE TREE
Even though things were quiet, the playboy Ŋgírì masquerade Wanmabu continued provoking Ŋwéròŋ cult members every time it came out to display. There was a huge tall tree in the middle of the Palace Square (Maandzә Ngay). Whenever Wanmabu came out, it would climb on this tree and spy on activities in the Ŋwéròŋ compound. Young Ŋwéròŋ boys used to retreat behind the safety of the Ŋwéròŋ walls and attempt to shoot Wanmabu down from the tree with their catapults, but this did not deter Wanmabu at all. The Ŋwéròŋ hierarchy complained to the Fòn who decided not to take any action in stopping Wanmabu. Ŋwéròŋ took matters into their own hands and applied a deadly chemical concoction to the tree in the dead of night. The beautiful tree died and to everyone’s sorrow lost its foliage and dried up. The Fòn had no choice but to cut it down, depriving Wanmabu of his favorite perch thus calming the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì fued for a few more years.
V-9. THE “MBOOR” LEAF PALAVER
In 1993 the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ got a new young and vibrant King Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present). The Ŋgírì cult decided it was time to reassert their powers anew and in 1994/1995 after giving the new Fòn a two year reprieve, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was once again broken. This time around Ŋgírì’s Yeŋgírì cult decided that their members were going to wear the same regalia like Ŋwéròŋ’s Yeŋwéròŋ cult when their Yeŋgírì masquerade came out for public displays. They decided that Yeŋgírì cult members were going to wear “mboor” the plant leaf that Yeŋwéròŋ cult members adorned their headgear with. Now, in the unwritten constitution of the Nso’ dynasty it can be traced to as far back as 1727 (when the lost Prince Yiir was discovered by Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and brought back to be made King) that it was agreed that only princes that were recognized as Kings and were allowed to sit on the throne were allowed to wear the “mboor” leaf in the company of the senior Yeŋwéròŋ cult members. No other prince (except the King) was allowed to adorn their head with this leaf. So if the Yeŋgírì cult decided that their members were going to wear the “mboor”, then any princes that were Yeŋgírì cult members that decided to wear the “mboor” leaf on their heads were surreptitiously trying to usurp the throne. In order to prevent an uprising, the Fòn stepped in and forbade his brother princes from wearing the “mboor” leaf. The Cameroons administration was asked to intervene and forbid any Yeŋgírì cult member from wearing the “mboor” leaf to ensure that peace reigned in Bui Division.
Ŋwéròŋ thought they had cornered the Yeŋgírì cult members, but they were wrong. A few plant leaves do look like the “mboor” leaf. One of them is the medicinal bean-seed-like plant called “shinjaang”. The Yeŋgírì cult members found solace in “shinjaang”. So, the next time the Yeŋgírì cult masquerade came out to display, the cult members adorned “shinjaang” leaves on their heads. Of course the Bui Divisional Administration was watching. Once they confronted the Ŋgírì folks the answer was simple (this one no be “mboor” sa, na “shinjaang” – this one is not the “mboor” leaf sir, this is a “shinjaang” leaf). The Bui Administration was furious because they could not differentiate “mboor” from “shinjaang”. In the Administration’s view if it looked like “mboor”, quacked like “mboor” and walked like “mboor”, it was “mboor”. So, the Bui Administration banned the Ŋgírì cult from adorning anything that looked like “mboor” on their heads. The new Fòn agreed with the administration and peace returned.
An elaborate ceremony was organized to celebrate what everybody thought was the end of the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud. The Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì Shigwàála’ masquerades actually came out together and embraced each other in public and everyone sang “hallelujah”. But unfortunately it was not meant to be. The Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud was just held in abeyance for another decade.
V-10. ŊGONNSO’ 2008 AND THE HOPEFUL FUTURE
A few minor incidents occurred (like the snatching of Kibaraŋko’s club (mbuh) by the Ŋgírì members or the confiscation of Wanmabu’s spears (kongsi) by the Ŋwéròŋ members or the Yeŋwéròŋ-Yeŋgírì-Kibaraŋko encounter during the burial of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm in 2004). These were pretty minor and did not disturb public peace. In 2008 when Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) decided to celebrate the Kingdom’s cultural week, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì clash resurfaced during the ceremonial sacrifice in Kovvifәm. Ŋwéròŋ’s Kibaraŋko and Ŋgírì’s Wanmabu masquerades met face-to-face at the Kovvifәm public square but the confrontation was not as bad as the December 1976 Palace incident. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. However, this encounter was just a precursor. The worst was still to come.
During the closing ceremonies a few days later, Kibaraŋko and Wanmabu came face-to-face again at the Kimbo public square, half a mile north of the Palace. Sparks flew. The worst would have happened (and December 1976 would have been child’s play) were it not for the timely intervention of senior Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult leaders. Kibaraŋko and Wanmabu postponed their deadly dance to the Palace square (Maandzә Ngay) 30 minutes later. It was amazing theatre. The King Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) had to come out personally to quell the situation. The Fòn was livid. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì were summoned to the Court and this time the fines and sanctions were draconian. Four senior Ŋwéròŋ members and three senior Ŋgírì members were banned from both cults and the Palace vicinity for life. The Nso’ community woke up and was aghast that popular figures like Sheèy Taafuh Tarzan of Taaŋkùm (Ŋgírì), retired officer Engelbert Mbulai (Ŋwéròŋ) and Paa Little Man (late) of Ve Baah Rong (Ŋwéròŋ ) had been rusticated from the palace for good.
If any lessons were learned here, it is hoped the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì feud will finally come to an end. Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) and Ŋwéròŋ were hash in the punishment they meted out to the agitators of the last incident, but it is hoped the punishment was enough to deter any future recurrence. The fact that this time around it was not only the Shigwàála’ she Ŋgírì and Shigwàála’ she Ŋwéròŋ masquerades but also Wanmabu and Kibaraŋko masquerades that came out to celebrate the end of Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì hostilities is hopefully a sign that we have seen an end to this centuries old feud. Let peace reign.
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Shey Tatah Sevidzem
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