The Fondom – or chiefdom or kingdom of Mankon, depending on the author – is
situated in the North West Province of Cameroon at an average altitude of 1000
metres. It is an elevated area of plateaux and small hills, which make up part
of Cameroon Grassfields or Grassland (prairies).
Each hill has its own name, usually
named after its location or after the prominent local vegetation. The hills may
also be named after a resident notable or even after a memorable event. For
example, nta’ngoow is the name given to the hill on which in the past
inhabitants accused of witchcraft were tried. The name nta’ titon means
a hill which cannot be burned or conquered due to the strength of its people.
The Mezam River and its numerous tributaries bring abundant water to man, the land and animals. Humid south-westerly winds bring rain and humidity whilst the harmattan, the
desert wind, brings dust and drought. The hottest and driest season lasts for
about three months, between December and February; this period is called aboob. This is the time for building houses, repairing roofs, hunting and land
clearance by bush fires as well as a time for ceremonies and for abüngafo, the
fon’s annual dance. The short rainy season, ntsoob-mbceng, lasts
from February until May. This is mainly the time for cultivating the soil,
sowing seeds or planting crops.
During mügham, the main rainy
season between May and August, the first crops are harvested and new crops are sown; at this time of year, vegetation is lush and rivers are full. üsan is the period between September and December. It is the short dry
season: rain is scarce, the rivers are nearly empty and the soil is arid.
Before the bush fires commence, dry grass is harvested and used to repair
MARRIAGE IN MANKON
Since marriage plays a significant role in establishing the entire family’s
economic and social standing, mate selection is a way of forging connections
between kinship groups. As such it is considered too important to
be left to the individuals involved. Consequently, mate selection, marriage
negotiations and rituals are usually handled by the title-holders of the
kingdom, especially lineage heads (bütabütsey).
the suitor’s father explains the purpose of his visit. As required by tradition, he will normally express himself using figurative language – as an example: “The purpose of my visit is to inform you that I have seen a banana in your compound that I would like to harvest.”
During the first official visit to the woman’s compound, her father will invite her into
his sitting-room and present his guest to her, explaining the purpose of his
visit. He will ask the woman to take the wine her suitor’s father has brought
and pour it into his own drinking-horn. He will then sip a little and give the
rest to her. When she finishes drinking the wine in the cup, the father will
ask her to refill it. He will then drink again, give it to her and then ask her
to give the rest to the suitor’s father. If she does so
he procession normally carries two sets of lighted raffia torches (nka’a); the people crack jokes as they move along in the bridal train. A representative of the bride’s maternal grandfather carries one of the torches at the tail end of the procession, while that of the bride’s father takes the lead. The bride is hidden in the middle of the procession as they move forward: she usually carries a bag containing an ancestral cup or a drinking horn.
In January 1891, with five German officers and about five thousand soldiers recruited from the Bali, Bakongwa and Meta’ tribes, Zintgraff attacked the Mankon people.
Objects and Symbols of Authority
Oral tradition refers to the clan head of Maso’, in the person of
Nsu’kyen, the last leader of the confederation: this ended with the
foundation of the Mankon kingdom. Before this period the clan leaders
or fons had objects and symbols of authority in their keeping.
Emergence of Clan
The original ‘group heads’, who were former
family heads, kept important functional objects and had the prerogative to use
special symbols that protected its members: these were the clan heads. The term
‘clan’ in the context of Mankon, where there are several groups with different
backgrounds, also includes situations where people are incorporated into one
clan from another.
OBJECT AND SYMBOL OF AUTHORITY
While some objects and symbols are reserved for the fon, some are
reserved only for notables and secret societies existing in the
kingdom. For example, the giant gong, representing the kingdom’s
authority, is reserved for the kwifo. There are also objects used by
the nda ngang society during some of their rituals.
Religion in Mankon has its own forms and modalities of worship. In
terms of form, traditional rituals are the most important, while secret
shrines are usually identified with streams, forests, trees and stones.
Access to these sites is generally forbidden to the public, especially
women, with only initiated members, chief priests and diviners being
allowed to enter them. In addition, ritual performances take the form
of incantations and sacrifices. The animals used for sacrifices include
rams and fowls; while camwood, palm oil, salt and water are also used.
Meaning of Aaza in Mankon
let us see if we can determine the meaning of Azaa, or àzà
since the meaning is not so obvious. The
tone in the first and second vowels in this name is falling. There are
two syllables in the name. The first syllable is either a third person
“it” or “he.” The second syllable “za” is
a either a possessive noun or a pronoun.
Birth of Twin
In Mankon as well as in the Grassland as a whole, twin children are generally regarded as a blessing for the family that has them. It is a custom that, as soon as a woman gives birth to twins, she acquires the title Maa ngyie, while her husband is given that of Taa ngyie. Thus if the woman’s name is Ngum, she is known as Maa ngyie Ngum, and if the man’s name is Awah, he is called Taa ngyie Awah. The birth of twins changes the status of the parents: in fact, the mother of the twin children can enter the palace with out performing the myie ritual, which grants anyone the privilege of clapping and speaking directly to the king.
Customes and Rituals of Birth
Generally, women who fail to bear children, no matter what good qualities they might possess, are treated with scorn because her line of descent will come to an end. Although the fault might not be hers, the husband can remedy the situation by fathering children with another wife or other wives, which, of course, ensures succession and continuity of the family line.
It has always been the custom, especially during the pre-colonial and colonial periods, for women to carry their babies in a baby-carrier (üzü) made from antelope pelt. Usually, if it rained while they were outdoors, the child’s nurse (ndimon) or mother would normally shelter herself and the baby from the showers with a raffia umbrella (akongø ala’a or akongø assandze).
Pregnant women (bümabvue; singular mabvue) observe certain taboos in order to protect themselves and their children from harm and adversities. For instance, they are not supposed to watch certain masqueraders (mükomø), for fear that the babies they are carrying will be deformed. In most cases, miscarriages are considered to be the result of some malediction that needed the intervention of a medicine man (nwo ngang).
Indeed, the customs and rituals relating to birth have always varied, depending on whether it is normal or not. Normal births are those in which delivery is with cephalic presentation, whereas abnormal ones are those resulting in deformed children, albinos and so on.
In the past, when a child was strange in appearance, it was taken to the forest, where it was abandoned to the gods. After this, special purification rites were performed on the woman in order to avert further reoccurrence and to lift the malediction that had befallen the family. The birth of deformed children in a family is believed to be the result of witchcraft, misfortune or divine punishment for wrongs committed.
Unlike deformed children and albinos, twin children (müfagø or bü nwi) have always been considered to be beings from the other world. In addition, because they are rare, any family that has them is held in high esteem.
As regards the royal family, tradition holds that when a prince or princess is born, the child is not brought into the presence of the king unless its first hair has been shaved. Palm oil from an open-mouth calabash (azo’nütong) is used to anoint the baby’s navel (nütong). Furthermore, another calabash with an open mouth (azo’shwigünø) containing a mixture of camwood powder and palm oil, with a sponge made from raffia leaves, is also used by the other wives of the king who come in to carry the baby of their husband. This cosmetic mixture is collected from the calabash by means of the raffia sponge, with which they anoint their bodies. This act in itself is an expression of joy and happiness for the arrival of the newborn baby.
Widekum appears, therefore, to have
been a temporary home for the Mankon people during their travels from the east,
known as sa’nyom (where the sun rises), rather than their original
home. This is why the Mankon language resembles that of the Bamumkumbit, Babadjou,
Dschang and Bangwa, but differs from that of the original Widekum people.
The Fondom is situated in the North West Province of Cameroon at an average altitude of 1000 metres. It is an elevated area of plateaux and small hills, which make up part of Cameroon Grassfields or Grassland (prairies).