LAGABUM - June 13th 1960

Langa DancerWe were called out at about 9 a.m. to see the langa maskers - two human-headed (bongse langa-su) and a buffalo-masker (buli). The son of Ndifon Bala, Ntang, is playing a wooden whistle and a langa member in a loincloth is singing. (Wooden whistle is ashan.)

The human-headed maskers wore red and figured gowns respectively, heavy ankle-rattles, and carried horsetail switches. The red gown had cowries down the back seam and edges - the figured gown was more elaborately embroidered with cowries. The one with a black mask also had a porcupine quill sticking out of the underlip of the mask. Both had chains of white beads hanging from the sides of the masks. Round the base of the black mask worn by the wearer of the figured gown, were two rows of cowries - the faces of both dancers were covered with greyish netting. The bush-cow masker was in a blackish hessian robe and carried a cutlass.

We both took some colour photographs and transparencies.These maskers were out in the outer square.

PK's notes and mine are at variance here. I have the masks as representing Yuendong, mother of Tam (Tam being the red-painted one), rather than Yuendong - langa, "representing" Tam, and Chambi - 'lang-la' - meaning "expert of langa, in addition to the bush-cow mask, buli langa. I have Chambi - 'langa-la' "representing" Tam.


The Fon confirms that the yard in front of ntul is where he makes the incision in any leopard brought in, and this leads to the story of how Mbaktefwa united the country. After he had 'captured' the different quarters he summoned them all, each with their kwi'fon, and asked them what their language would be since they were still speaking different languages. They said they did not know, and that he must choose. The name of the people who came from Mbirribo was Alung. Mbaktefwa said, "The names of the quarters of the country are many, let us not call them again": and he suggested Bum as the name of the country.... They said, "If he can reject his own name (Alung) then we can reject ours". He then asked them who they wanted as their "highness" and the quarters said, "The Fon of Bum". And Mbaktefwa said, "We confirm". And that is why all the fons from Mbaktefwa to Tam have been descendants of the Mbot leader, and why the captured or surrendered towns gave the Fon of Bum "the right to put his foot on a leopardskin". But Sawe did not fight but gave room to the Alung to enter. Even though he does not keep leopards yet he gave the land first. So if Fon Bum is away Fon Sawe is listened to, and this is why he can enter both Ntul and Kwi'fon and the drinking hall of Fon Kwangga.
(This is mainly from Ndifon and Fon Sawe.)

Fumbain - ayaa dancing Ya Yuf'uwa

The Fon insists that we have some anisette (it is 9.55 a.m.) and that we sit and 'enjoy our cups' while another dance is prepared: this is fumbain, and two maskers come out into the inner court, one wearing a beaded elephant mask with a leopardskin cloak, carrying a spear - his cloak held by another - and a man in a fine green gown with a feather headdress. Two sons of Kwangga, Nkang Kwangga and Mbamfu Kwangga, both younger brothers of the Fon, are performing. 'Mbamfu' is the senior and chief man in fumbain, which is for the 'royal family'. The Fon urges them on, crying Kas! Kas! - dance, dance. (We learn that Nkang wore the red-faced langa mask, but are forbidden to reveal his identity to others). Two yaas are now dancing very expertly and Esther calls out in praise (of Fon), "wa'tumfong" - person who has killed a buffalo (perhaps cut head off?). Yaa Yu'fuwa now goes out to dance and EMC is urged to dance with her and dances behind her, imitating her steps.


A man with a spear bundle came out to dance and mimed shooting with a bow and arrow - this said to be "how they fought in the past". We did not get his identity but it may be the 'second man' in fumbain whose name was given as Yaliya Likfu.

Njang, we learn, has a special title of her own which is Nduke-yen-a-alung - said to mean 'sit (in Bum) and see what happens', i.e. don't go away. The Fon says she has 'done everything' and she has her own drinking horn in which she can receive wine poured from the Fon's cup. Yaa Yu'fuwa has also done much (but see earlier), but the other two yaas have no special position in fumbain.

The orchestra was as before - two double gongs, one single gong, and a single membrane drum; this one is on a stand, played by Ful. (Some colour transparencies taken by EMC.)

In the course of the dance praise-names are flung at the Fon, principally "Nyii" - said to mean 'god' (but surely not either the Bum or Limbum term, but associated with spirit-births?)

At about 10.40 a.m. we sit down with the Fon, Ful, Fon Sawe, and Ndifon Bala to pursue the settlement of Alung. (We suspect that much of this may be relatively modern, following the raiding period and temporary abandonment of Nggunabum.)

At Nggunafoesi there was a prince Ya'e (Yai) Fondo, who was succeeded by Yamba-Nyat who went to Sali. Nyat was the name of his mother and distinguishes him from other Yambas.

At Sali there was a prince Mbangsi-Yuendong, with no palace title, but "surnamed" Yundi.

At Su-bum there was Jong-kungá, no other name or title. In Fonfuka there was Kimbi-Yuendong, the ancestor of Ndifon Bala ('Ndifoba'). Yangsi, QH Fonfuka, is of the same family but not the 'leading man' in status. Also in Fonfuka was another royal, Mbang-a-Njang, an early settler but subordinate to Kimbi- Yuendong.


Also at Fonfuka were Chat-Ndum-a-Mbong - a royal, with no palace title (perhaps more distant, as they cannot show connections) and Gha'-ka, a prince. (Fon interjects that wherever Alung 'conquered', they "put a prince".) What follows is said to be in order of settlement (but I suspect just any remembered early settlers); Koebong-ne-Angga lived at Nggin, just below Lagabum. Njito' (sometimes we hear Ndito') of Mulung is Alung, of the 'royal family'. Yangsi-Nanasi is at Fonfuka. Kemba-Banga (Nji-Kimbi) is at Su-Bum.

So, says the Fon, there is no quarter not 'controlled' by the 'royal family' - he says that 'controlling' means that they see what is happening. But this does mean either that all quarterheads are royals - a few are. All members of nda ntul (i.e. the 9) are royals. But most quarterheads are acinaghoet, commoners. Term for settlers is acinabum. We check palace titles again - Kimbi-Yuendong's is Ndifoba [Ndifon] at Bina-Kimbi-Yuendong; Koebong of Nggin has the title Kitoti, which means a man-killer in war, Kemba-Banga of Su-Bum has the title of Nji (or Ndi) Kimbi. Yangsi-Nanasi is a 'family surname', whatever that means (possibly mother's name ?)

While we sit in the audience chamber (5) some dancing continues and Ful and Ndifon get up and join, with Tibong, who has arrived, the Fon's junior brothers, Njang and Yaa Yu'fuwa. Ful is singing and drumming. The song is a langa one and is said to mean "The Fon of Kom is challenged to come to Lagabum by day if he wants a fight". The dance is called mmgamla', I think. Then Ful gives us another song which the Fon says is a fumbain song and implies 'A friend in need is a friend indeed'.


(We asked about menang.)
The Fon replies that in Bum it has nothing to do with kwi'fon, and no work for the country except to go to cry-dies. There are menang houses in various quarters, not all, and they are under the respective quarterheads. It has no 'headquarters' at Lagabum.

More dancing: four princesses and Tibong dance opposite the Fon who now gets up to play a double-gong for a while and then Fon Sawe and Fon Saf are commanded to show their steps. The Nggunabum Quarterhead, who has been sitting by, now mimes a fight in which he avoids arrows and throws spears, and the challenge to Kom is renewed (this is explained later).

As the Fon plays we can clearly observe his outfit. He is wearing a doma (Nso' kilanglang) gown, i.e. a plain blue base and yoke and a tie-and-die inserted centre, heavily embroidered round the neck. On the back yoke is a lighter blue circular patch with a smaller red circular patch inside in which a yellow snake is embroidered. He is wearing a cap of touraco feathers with an orange knitted base, a knitted crown in orange, black and white concentric designs and two tassels hanging down at the back. Beneath his gown are 'tails' - on a black ground are sewn on yellow and white or red appliqué triangles.

The Fon had said earlier that he would tell us about the relations of Bum with Kom and Funggom and, to judge from the names mentioned, he is rehearsing it with those present and reminding himself of episodes.


A pause while Ardo Hassan of Nggunabum calls to pay his respects, and when he leaves the Fon starts to tell the story, saying that he had heard it from his father. (About 11.50 a.m.)

'After we left Mbirribo, we stayed at Nggunabum. When the Mbang-tcu came they warred Bum at Nggunabum. The Fon of Kom, he was called Yu, heard that they had caused much devastation and thought that the whole of Nggunabum had been captured. So he thought that if he went to war he could conquer Bum. A girl was given by Fon Yu to a chinda to sell at a high price, starting at Buwabuwa and then to other quarters. This was to spy out the land. The Kom thought they could win a war as the Bum people were traders, not warriors. There was nobody who would pay the high price at Buwabuwa or other quarters. The chinda said he would have to travel back by Nggonfoesi through Fonfuka, really with the intention of spying out more of the land. There were no takers there either. On returning the chinda told Fon Yu that the place had been devastated, and that there was no need to send spears, only ropes for tying up captives. So Kom warriors were sent to Buwabuwa to catch people. But before this happened Fon Yu despatched a Fon's bag. He put in pieces of cloth on top, and a small half- piece of red cloth at the bottom, and sent chindas to take and give it to Fon Tam, as a Fon's bag. When these people arrived at Lagabum, the Fon sent for three noblemen, from various parts of Bum, called Jokandum, Banaki, and Wanggi, whose work it was to open the Fon's bag. First they removed the pieces of cloth, and later found the small red piece at the bottom. The Bum people asked the chindas what was meant by the small red piece. But then Fon Tam said, "My people will tell you the future of the country". And the three said, "You should know there will be war between you and the Bum people: this is notice of war and a symbol of blood; what we call mukan. It would kill a brother even, if the latter spoke ill". The Fon told his servants to bring a fowl and then went with his own subjects to a pot of wine which was in the palace. Then he spoke and said, "We come from Mbirribo - we were friends with Kom. If we can get him to drink wine with us we shall not get war, but if they persist we shall succeed". And he said: "We drink this wine." Then the fowl was brought. Dane guns were lying in the yard behind. The Fon tore the fowl and blood poured on the guns, and he said to each warrior, "Go to the bush and hunt animals and bring them to me". After the Kom men had eaten the fowl and drunk the wine they were playing at shooting guns. One of the Kom men was wearing a cap of feathers and it moved from his head and fell down. Jokandum saw this, took up a stone (?) and said, "Betenguna" (?) which meant, "We have won the battle". And when the Kom messengers returned to Yu they told him there were no men to fear in Bum and that war should be started. The war started at Buwabuwa. Many Kom and Bum were killed on the first day: no-one won. The cup holder of Fon Yu was sitting by the Fon, who took part in the battle, by name Dangas‚. Dangas‚ advised Fon Kom to move away, or he would be killed. Dangas‚ himself was killed by Missom of Ikwot Quarter, a big man. When the Kom people returned from the war there was a song the Kom people sang about their Fon. "Why should you decree war with Bum? Why did you make us go to fight Bum while Yuendong was our daughter who went from Anjinkom to be married to the Fon of Bum." Funkuyn was sister (mother?) to Yuendong. Neya-Funkuyn and Yuendong- Funkuyn were of one family and one had to be given to the Fon of Bum-Yuendong was married to Fon Tam (??) (Cp. earlier notes.) [I thought 'Yuendong was mother to Fon Tam'.]


Then a man named Sama went to the Fon of Kom and said he had not been leader at Buwabuwa. Fon Kom said: "What's to be done, then?" Sama said he wanted to go back to Bum to fight and Fon Kom gave him authority to try again. He led the Kom army to Nggongfoesi (Nggonfoesi), and coming down he met Ya'e, a royal, who had a compound there. Ya'e had a drum and he asked his wife to ring the drum to signal to Fonfuka to come out because war was coming. He had plenty of dane guns. He divided them up between his wives who were lined up behind him. He shot one, handed it back to a wife, took another and shot it, and so on. The Kom people were halted. They did not know what was happening, thinking that many people were shooting. Sama had promised that whatever happened the Kom would enter Bum. They tried to enter Bum, and many were killed on both sides on that day. In those days debtors were put in wooden shackles, and Nkol men who owed debts to Bum had been put in shackles and peace had not yet been made with Nkol when Bum and Kom were at war. When they heard gunfire people broke their shackles but the Nkol people said they would go home and help themselves before they helped Bum, and because of this misunderstanding between Nkol and Bum, Nkol did not send help and some Bum were killed. Sama himself was killed by Bonangjang-akuri, brother of Bangnanjang, with a dane gun, through the mouth and the shot came out at the back of his skull. There was a Kom song, "Where shall we go, Sama is left behind? What shall we say to our own Fon, now Sama is killed?"

When they returned, peace was made and the covenant with Kom renewed. (See earlier.)


It was at Nggunabum that Kom planned to burn Fon Tam in a house at night, bringing grass with them. But he slipped away beforehand. This is what is recorded in the song in which Tam challenges Kom to come by day and not by night - called banga-nda. The gong play, when the Quarterhead of Nggunabum danced, is also called so. This was after the sending of the Fon's bag and the red cloth.

About "70", two bamboo poles of them, Kom heads were taken (I think this must refer to Sama's attack). They were lined along two long poles. His father told him this. He says he was advised by his people not to tell us this, but he is telling us the truth, but does not want to make bad blood - all this is long ago. [Phyllis thinks the political implications may be that the councillors fear Mr Jua and the KNDP, but I suspect that some, like the good Daniel Bang, fear we may be repelled by head-taking.]

Fon Sawe (his name is Nggwei) now tells his story, his son interpreting. (Ndifon and others have left; Waaba and Saf stay.)

His own "great-great-grandfather" Bongayong of Sawe told Fon Bum - "Don't go anywhere else if I die. If you remain on these rocks (Lagabum) nothing will befall you. Don't leave these stones. The Sawe people and the Bum people are your people". Bongayong said this to Tam Yuendong. [NB. Here Yuendong is Tam's mother, surely.] He adds: "Bongayong said: "I have given the people of Sawe to be subjects - the stones will be your people, so do not think you are too small. As long as you have been with us there has been no war with Kom, but if it comes we shall meet it."

Bongayong said he would show what he meant, that it was as if he was putting wine in a cup. He asked Tam to stand some ten feet away and said, "I will throw this drink and you must catch it in your cup with no drop spilt". Tam-Yuendong stood away and Bongayong did it. He gave people, he gave stones, and now he was saying they should be united in any war trouble.

Bongayong foretold to Tam that people red in complexion would come and that when they came he should receive 'the redskins' as brothers to him. He told Tam that he should give the Europeans honey, which is what they especially liked. Bongayong said all this to Tam, and then he died, leaving the throne of Sawe to Tam. Then the Europeans - the Germans - came with war. Yes, Tam was at Lagabum (i.e. Nggunabum has been abandoned). Kom attacked the Europeans and when the Germans passed through and conquered Kom, they came to Bum. They were welcomed by Fon Tam and given a great reception. They were ready and armed for war against Bum, but nothing was said of war (see earlier).


After Bongayong of Sawe died, Domineba succeeded, then the present Fon succeeded, in the time of Kwangga. When Kwangga was dying he called Fon Sawe and said, 'Bum and Sawe should remain, as is told, as one'. He told Fon Sawe, "When I die, get this small pikin, put him on chair, and obey him". And Fon Sawe promised, and he and Bala together traced him to where he was - he was at Jos. And up to today they will move together as one, and Fon Sawe has the privilege of taking any drink or food in the palace, as if in his own place. Fon Kwangga said to him, "You, Fon Sawe, will not argue about petty things - let leopards come here", and Fon Sawe agreed. Prior to the arrival of Bum, Saf, Buwabuwa and so on were independent villages, and not under Sawe.

(Fon now asks Fon Sawe to speak on Funggom, but before that he says there were "3 fons and 1 queen before him". Here Phyllis's and my notes differ. I have 1) Doma Koboe, 2) Njang-la' (Q), 3) Bongayong, 4) Domineba, but we are clearly uncertain as to the order.)

Fon Sawe: Sawe-Bum people, not of the Chief's family, went to Kwoshin. The Kwoshin people asked if they could come back and inquired about animals, and were told that they were only barred from keeping leopards. Now they have joined the Funggom N.A., but they are not Funggom people. They left in the reign of Bongayong.

Ndifon Bala (who has returned) says (speaking from the Alung viewpoint) that the relationships with Funggom are purely those of friendship and intermarriage and tells the story of Fwang (Fang).


Yangke was Chief of Fwang and a friend. Fon Bum gave a daughter, a royal woman, to Yangke, who fathered Ntchoka by the Bum woman. So when Yangke died and Ntchoka succeeded, he had relatives in Bum through his mother. Then when Funggom made war on Fwang, Fwang had to move down to the forest which belonged to Bum at the time. Ntchoka said, "O my mother, people are troubling me. What shall I do?" Then Fon Tam appointed three protectors. They were Ndi Kashey-yu, Yu-angga, uncle to the Fon, and Kimbe Ndemangga. At that time Fwang had no dane guns. These three had dane guns. They were sent to Fwang to stay there and to report any attack immediately. From Fwang palm-oil was brought to Bum and they gave two native cows to Bum in gratitude. Fwang promised thereafter to send oil to Bum and not to Funggom as a subject people, that is, to bring it to Bum markets for sale. Funggom then said, "They are unable to be by themselves. As they are under you we will not attack them". So they were left in peace. Fwang was from Mbelifang; they had wanted to settle there, but they would not have been free there - only free if they were 'under' Bum, i.e. free to market their oil.

Ndifon Bala's own mother came from Kwoshin. He says, "I am speaking as a live person, not a dead person", i.e. has a personal interest in history. Djangasa (? Njangasa - I have Ndiangasa) was a coe of Kwoshin who had left Sawe for Kwoshin and there bore Yayi who bore Mbong-a-Yayi, the mother of Ndifon Bala, who is now 'father' to the Fon. Ndiangasa (in my version) gave Mbong-a-Yayi to Kimbi-Yuendong who was a brother of Tam-a-Yuendong. She was chosen because her family had many children to rear.

Koshin (Kwoshin) can come and get 'orders' from Fon Sawe sitting here. The word is really made up of akuo, meaning forest, and ashin, the home of the people. The land on which they settled, the forest of Ashin, was formerly controlled by Bum. It is a Sawe name. Mandabile is also included in this area. (We shall return to this. Meanwhile Phyllis asks about relations with Noni towns, but Ndifon continues:)


In 1957 there was a request by Fon Bum that Koshin, Fang and Mandabile be included in the Bum area (i.e. the Court and tax area) but the reply was that unless the above-named requested it, nothing could be done.

Now (says Ndifon) as to Nkol, Mbinon and Jottin.
As to Mbinon - where Fon Mbin is - it is really part of Nkol (Nkor).

Bridges asked about the history of Nkol, Kwangga said that they had been brothers to Bum so perhaps they could join it. So Bridges went to Nkol. They said they had been living with Banso' for a long time, without trouble. Moreover, they had kola and raffia there, which they could not find again if they moved to Bum. But more recently they wanted to separate from Nso'. (Phyllis asks, as a test question, supposing a war between Nso' and Bum, what side would they be on?) They would be neutral, try to avoid conflict.

Yes, Jottin, Nkol and Din refused to be under Mbaktefwa, so they had to take the consequences when Nso' attacked them.

(The Fon interposes.) At one time Nso' and Bum were not friends until, in Tam's time, they became trade-friends. Fon Koshi in Nkol is Alung-a wir-Alung. The Mbin chief came from Dumbo, later than the Koshi chief. The Jottin chief - Kinengti - is Alung. But the fontoe (according to Ndifon) is from Fiyo.

[We now feel we can deal with Kwi'fon maskers.]

We can see nkgo' (I hear ngkwo') provided we keep our distance (the Fon discusses with others: it is sent for). Yes, ngko' belongs to kwi'fon. It goes out to cry-dies, and when it appears people cry out cebu: it 'means', the Fon says, "a powerful animal".


After a brief delay ngko' emerges. There is a mass of sagging black bags on top of its head and, as usual, the masker is restrained by ropes held by two men, a chinda and one other, as it lurches about. "This is to arrest the power of ngko'" says the Fon. Ndifo and others are driving away princes and women with 'leaves'. I can't see clearly. Phyllis took a photograph.

Yes, when ngko' goes to a cry-die it is able to seize goats and wine; and, yes, ngko' would only become weak in the presence of a pregnant woman. (Ngko' is now driven back to Kwi'fon.)

The Fon says that every November-December there is a 'yearly festival', Ibin-i-lume, "in remembrance of late fons", when all quarters bring their jujus - cong, menang, etc. - to dance at the palace. If they do not turn up they will be fined by Kwi'fon. They bring "everything" to replenish the palace - fowls, goats, kola nuts. Fwang and Kwoshin, who attend, bring oil; quarters by the river would bring dried fish.

(We now break off, while I circumambulate the palace and get badly bitten by sandflies and swarms of ticks in the legs - I have put on my 'dancing skirt' in the Fon's honour and offer an obvious target.)

At 4 p.m. we rejoin the Fon, Ful and Ndifon. Mandabile (or Mendabile) had a quarrel with Menkaf in Funggom - ochung-o-chamu, the terms for raiding or feuding. They tired of this and left to settle at Kwe near Dumbo. Later on Dumbo wanted to make them 'subjects' so they left Dumbo and came to Fonfuka and lived there for some time. Then the English (Germans ?) came and said that there was to be no war henceforth. So Mandabile came to Tam (?) and asked permission to return home which Fon Bum granted. Then Fon Mandabile said he was grateful for the welcome he had had in Bum and took his daughter Nemboo, and gave her to Fon Tam. She was the sister of Nyongo. Tam said he would accept her as a wife but would pay bride-price for her. (We ask why. Ful answers:)

Otherwise it would seem as if Nemboo was compensation for the use of land by Mandabile. When Mandabile is short of tax, they can come here and get tax money, and bring oil and farm produce here. Yes, bring it as presents as well at any time. In those days there were no markets on that side so they used Lagabum as the place where they got salt. Now, of course, they go to markets. All this was in the time of Tam. (NB. tendency to ascribe everything to this reign.)


Nyos and Bafme (Mmen) as well as Fwang were friendly and could attendibin-a-lume.

They say that they had no relations with Bafut - and this suggests another story to the Fon:

Buwabuwa came from Bafme. There was a chief there, in Ndawum in Me. He found no favour with his people, but he had a servant, who was a Bafut person, who did kindnesses to the noblemen of the country. The noblemen said, "We had better kill the Chief, since he does not help us, and put another...." In the house of ntul there, they dug a hole, they dressed the Fon's chair and put it over the hole on grass stems. The Fon was called and invited to sit. He fell in the hole and soil was put over him. The Ndawum people fell into disorder - some went to Bum and founded the settlement of Buwabuwa-Ndawum, as it is called. Some went to Isu. Later on the Bafme people (Bafu-men) chose the Bafut servant to be chief. (Cf. Nkwen, Mmen and Funggom folk tales.)

(Fon continues:)

Kom was once at Shwi (Bamessi) in the Ndop area. Kom was larger in population. The Fon Kom and Fon Shwi agreed to come together to make country fashion, but Fon Shwi had planned to kill a lot of Kom people. He had a large new house built, with an escape hole known only to his people. The Kom people went in and the house was set on fire and they were killed. At first it was pretended that all were lost in the house, but when Fon Kom looked for his subjects he saw that only Kom had died and Shwi had escaped, and realized the deception. He said, "What is happening? My people are killed. Yours are here. Better if I die if I have no subjects". Then he called his remaining subjects and said, "When I shall die and you see a leopard catching a goat, follow its tracks, and then settle". And then he went away and hanged himself, and where he died a lake formed. Now, once a Bamessi man went hunting and found the lake, full of fish. He went in and caught many mudfish, and satisfied, went home and reported his find of a lake full of fish. The next day the whole country rushed to the lake to catch fish. On the third day each man was to catch fish and take it to the palace. On that day there was an earthquake which caused the lake to cover all the Shwi (Bamessi) people. Later (after the Fon of Kom's suicide) a Kom man said, "What did our Fon tell us? To follow the leopard's track to a hill". That was Laïkom where they built their city. As they came they met Mejang, Atin, Babanki, Iden, and there were 'tribal wars'; and Kom killed a lot of people. It is said that the Kom women, since men were few, had to take caps and bear weapons, like anlu now. The only place that defeated Kom was Iden so that, to start with, when Kom cooked castor oil, they would have to carry pots of it to Iden - but later Kom freed themselves. The conquered chiefs (tumoenggumi) agreed to submit.


Yes, Bamessing took refuge in Kom; they were together at nto'tüyen, palace of Bamessing, in Njinikijem, where Babanki used to be.

Komenfón was the first Fon at La‹kom, Kuinsoe' was before him. "After a time we get Yu', who created war everywhere". Then Nggam, then Ndi. "But (says the Fon), this is not history but hearsay".

The Bali-Chambas went to Bali-Kumbat and divided there. Buwaà, a powerful Bali leader, was killed at Bafreng so the Bali did not raid it again. (I have 'Mbuwa'.)

(We turn to Ndifon/Ndifoba.)

Ndifon was the leader of manjong in former times, but now there is mfu' here.

Mfu' has three officers - mfoghoem, ngwang and ta'mfu' or tala'mfu'. Ngwang does the reporting, Mfoghoem gives the orders, tala'mfu' is in charge of the palace house. There is only one royal among them. A prince is never mfoghoem, 'always' ngwang (see later).

Fon says the "first wife" is Gama-Fuwa, given to him by his father. He has had 8 children, 4 died. They are:
1. his daughter Fuwà [? Fwà]n Gama - she takes her mother's name.
2. a son, Tàm - this is short for Tam o bicoela - 'everything comes to pass'.
3. a son, Kwangga.
4. a son Mbeka - sa - be-Lò - i.e. if you leave (Bum) you must come back.

He told his inherited wives that they were welcome to stay on at the palace and could please themselves. Bongafi, the senior wife of the late Fon, is here. (Phyllis records that he has had 9 children, but only 4 survivors are named here.)


Ndong is now performed. The leader is Bangsi, a member of ntul. It is not connected with langa, fumbain or mfu'. - Ndong is said to mean flute. About 12 men are playing flutes of two types - an open-ended bamboo flute and the flattened wooden flute played at langa earlier, a large drum (ncum), and two boys are carrying calabash rattles. Esther and Yaa Yu'fuwa are carrying spears and Njang a cutlass. Bangsi was playing a flute and carrying a very large bag. The flute players and boys circled round the drum, the women with arms cruised around brandishing weapons. Seven of the Fon's wives are dancing sedately in a corner. The Fon got up, took a flute and played and danced. (Despite his girth he is a graceful dancer.) After circling a number of times round the drum the dancers formed into a line advancing to and withdrawing from the Fon's sitting place.

The Fon says that the dance has to do with men preparing to go to war. (Slightly reminiscent of mandera?) But now he asks us to sit with him, Ful, Ndifon and (later) Fon Sawe "for conversation", and Ndifon introduces the topics.

1) Why, if the earth is round, as the Europeans say, do not people and things fall off it, as it turns?
2) If one dug a hole in the earth, what country would we come to?
3) How did elephants originate?
4) Is there an afterlife?
5) What is the meaning of seeing relatives in dreams?

We are clearly pressed to give reasons for our beliefs; diagrams and drawings were no good. After listening to us Ndifon says that the dead exist as middlemen between God and man, that is the reason for an afterlife. If relatives (dead) appeared in dreams it was to warn the living, and they spoke truly then: a man would go to a nggambe man if he had such a dream for an interpretation or to check his own. His father told him if he dug a deep enough hole he would come to a different country. He says that some divers could see countries at the bottom of rivers and lakes, for example, the Kimbi river, Lake Wum and Lake Nyos. These were countries of the dead.


The Fon says that some of their mothers came from Wum, but the fathers (of Bum) and their power came from Mbirribo. But the "mothers of women" are called Newin and Niwum by Bum, and they wandered by Wum and now live in Lake Wum and could be seen by some people, or were known by signs in the water. He says, also, that beautiful young girls come out of Lake Nyos and go to dances where they meet young men. Assignations are made and the young men prepare to receive them: but they never come, so, says the Fon, they must be dead people. (We now ask about Oku Lake.)

The Fon says that in a lake like Oku, during the day the people who lived in it in houses tied up the water in cocoyam leaves and walked about. At night they vanished and only water was to be seen. People were curious and sent a boy to sit in a tree and spy on them. When night came and they wanted to release the water nothing happened. So, first, they sent up bees, and then birds to fly about, and finally very small sandflies. They stung the boy who said 'ouch' and slapped his arm and revealed himself, fell out of the tree and was drowned.

Ndifon now tells us about the origin of elephants:

it was before the Alung people reached Bum. Originally the people suffered starvation because elephants came and ate their crops, and they did not know how to kill elephants. These elephants were people living in another country. They too were hungry but their Fon had power to change them into elephants. They came and ate up food in Bum, returned to their Fon with food in the belly and vomited it up, and then were turned back into men. One day the Fon of Bum sent a daughter to the Fon of a different country to find out what was happening. She was very beautiful and everyone fell in love with her. At last the big men suggested she be given to the Fon to avoid quarrels between them. Every night her husband would leave her side at about midnight. She heard stamping outside and was told not to look. Then he would return. At last she asked her husband how she would know when he was asleep. He loved her so much that he told her: "First of all a light shines in the room like a star, then I breathe deeply and say hongkong, hongkong."

Now, under the bedchamber was a chinda. When the Fon urinated he had to receive the wine without complaint. One night the princess heard her husband say, "hongkong, hongkong", and there was a bright light. She took a sharp knife and cut off his head. Blood flowed down over the servant, who thought it was urine, so did not make a sound. This gave the princess a chance to escape back to her own country. Meanwhile the elephants returned to the palace expecting to be changed back into men by the Fon. They looked for him and trumpeted and trumpeted. Nothing happened. They remained elephants.


It is now late and the brandy we have presented is ebbing. The Fon says that we must write of 'Bala the Ndifo' and Ful Mwancum. He wants Ndifon mentioned for his intelligence (as he deserves to be). We leave them still talking and arguing amicably. We are starting to pack for an early start, before it gets too hot, arranging to walk down to Fonfuka with a group of young men going to Fonfuka market, where we are to meet Fon Saf. Our loads are lighter as we have disposed of salt and beer and have left camp beds and chairs in Fonfuka.

Next Day Published Account

For further information contact Ian Fowler