FONFUKA - June 14th 1960

After farewells we walk downhill at a good pace, sorry to leave the cool palace and its hospitable folk. Perhaps we shall never know from 'Bala the Ndifo' why things don't fall off the earth!

We call in briefly on Pastor Dom to greet him and have settled back into the rest house and arranged chairs for Fon Saf's visit, when he arrives with some of his councillors.

Present with Fon Saf (whose name is Nggong) are Banga, Jup Chia, Kiyong, Tam, Njila', Teji, Yong and Job Chekesa, a compound-head, who interprets. Saf - the Fon's place - is referred to as tok-o-Saf.

Banga is referred to as the Fon's "father" and as "kingmaker" and "succeeds to the chance of the headquarter of Foe Nggin, name Ta Chia".

The Saf people have always been here. Sawe, coming from Oku (Akfu) met them on the ground. Fon Saf says his "father" was Nsachyà… (Fon); the previous Fon to him was Ndicha, who lived a very long time, and before him Bamunggong reigned. (Consultations between those present follow, but no more names are forthcoming.)

All say they are not matrilineal, like Kom, and have no recollection of it. (Not quite sure if question was understood.)

Do they have a different language from the Alung? We are corrected and told that the Alung took over the language of Sawe, which is the Bum language. First time they themselves had a different language of their own, which resembles that of Nkol and Mbamelo. (NB: that they have acquired Sawe-Bum as a second language, I think.) They 'still' (always) called the chief mfòn. Second to him, a big man, is njila'. At first there were many big men but now 'all have died'. In fact eight are named, now acting as councillors:

1) Kimbene delivered Banga - Nji present
2) Foshi " Jup Chia present
3) Domanbong " Tam - Nji present
4) Bohidje " Kiyong - "brother" of Fon present
5) Dingga " Njila - Nji present
6) Bongadji " Yong present
7) Ko'tangti " Teji present
8) Digibá " Lengasha'a  

We are by no means certain which way round these names should be, whether they are eponyms or title-names, especially as we are told that "Domanbong" and "Dingga" should be called nji. Kiyong is said to have 'one father' with the Fon (different mother ?) and may speak directly to him, whereas Ngwang who is the 'own brother' of the Fon - this is said to be his name not title - is also important.

We ask for terms: a 'big man' literally, is wu' oe kuki, or wu'bai = a 'medium big man'. The councillors are collectively nyababai nto' mbunfòni (we have probably misdivided these terms). One councillor, who knows a bit of Lam Nso', says that wu'bai' is similar to kibay, and is the old term.

Kiyong (Phyllis has Kiyon) is the 'first brother' and remains with the Fon. The others are 'outside people' of different families - isa-nda' - who hold the country for the Fon. Some 'brothers' left Saf and went to Iden (Din). No other movements elicited.

In Saf ndatul (ntul) is called nsem and all the important men mentioned and some others "join there for worship". It was made by the old chiefs who left it for their children to do the same. A man must train his child to follow the fashion laid down in nda ntul (nsem). They made medicine there, call on old chiefs and call on God. The word for God is Nyõ.

Yes, all big men gather, pour wine into the pot and 'talk' there (i.e. pray). After that they will roast a fowl and all eat. And when the 'Father' will take a cup and talk, pour wine down, then all may drink. (NB: in my rough notes I have the Fon doing this.)

The head of ndatul (nsem) is Njila, second to the Fon. A munto' woman is next in importance. She sits by the pot. She is called Aya - it is her title, because after she vacates her stool in nsem the Fon may sit there. (See below.) There is only one and only she may serve the wine.


Before the Fon dies he tells the Aya who is to succeed. She sits on the Fon's stool temporarily until they have put the new Fon.

It is not Banga but Njila' who shaves the new Fon's head, puts a cap on him and rubs him with camwood. (See reference to Banga earlier.)

They say they had Kwi'fon originally - Kwi'fon be Safe. The above 8 could enter the Kwi'fon house to judge cases, warn or punish a man.

Yes, Kiyong is there, but like the Fon he does not judge but may enter and share the fines. They would eat together. They would not discuss the matter at length with the Fon as he would say, "Just listen to the other".

No, they do not have nggili or langa - Langa is a Bum thing. Nor did they acquire takumbang. They had nkukum for King-pikins. Kiyong is head of it, even now. It is a 'country juju', its work is to join people to drink and dance and come out for cry-dies. To become a new member you must take 5 fowls. Two go to the Fon but all must pass through Kiyong, because he is like the Fon. It is not permitted to quarrel or brawl in nkukum.

One man in Fon Bum's family has nkukum now. Mbamelo has nchangfuwa. Buwabuwa - Ifun has nkukum but really it belongs to Fon Bum. It has no work for warfare.

If war is pending all would enter nsem, talk and talk and pour wine - reason is to see that the god of the place will offend others and not Saf people. Yes, they had spies to foretell war.

Nsem deals with weather and rain. They call the names of fons, pour wine into a pot and call on rain to come. If there is sickness they will make a sacrifice there.

Cases cannot be judged there because it is a 'bad thing' and 'bad things' can only be judged in Kwi'fon. Only good things can be judged in nsem. But in cases of accidental bloodshed, as when a person fought and wounded another, both must go to nsem and bring a fowl. "They (bad feelings) should go as dust." Blood on the ground is bad. They must make peace.


Yes, they have ibin in Saf in November-December. When the time comes he will call his big people to enter nsem and ask that the dance be peaceful. Then the Fon will go to the fum - it is called njoem (or ijoem) in Saf - and pour wine on his forefathers' graves and ask for peaceful things.

The Fons are buried all together in a house. They bury the Fon hand over head and put a stone where the head is. No, the heads are not removed. The stone is taken to represent the head and is rubbed with camwood. They are buried side by side until the house is full. Then they put them in another house. They must be covered from the rain. When 'travelling' they would take the stone with them.

When the grave house had fallen they have to sweep the place, put wine in a pot and sacrifice a goat, saying they have come back. This happened when they ran from the Mbangtshu and came back and found the house broken.

When the Mbangtshu first came to Ta Chia, Foe Nggin's (i.e. Banga's) father caught one. Also Kwosinju. But they don't know how many were caught. This was in their grandfather's time. The Mbangtshu were making rapid raids, catching and tying people with ropes. They have heard they came on horses, many hundreds of them. When they heard the Mbangtshu were in Banso' they would start running away. This was in the time of (Fon) Njicha.

They do not know the name of the early Fons of Bum because they were not at peace then. But they know "Mbangak", and they know Tam. At that time the Mbangtshu were fighting with bows and arrows and with very long spears, not guns, and they had "armoured shirts".


(EMC asks if Samba or Chamba have been heard of. At first they say Samba is a society, then:)

Samba'a were others who came from Yola Province, and went and lived in Bali-Kumbat. They came from the north and passed through Nso', but they don't know which other places they passed. On their way back some travelled in single file through the bush. They did not come in very large groups, but had agreed to meet back in Yola Province.

Yes, they had a hunting and war society called ayodjoem, headed by a tanjong - a cinawut chosen by the people of the house, not a royal. The term for a member of the house is winche.

They now say they would like to give the names of other important people; these were heads of families, compound-heads (abebin) supporting the other 8. They are 'where Saf started'.

1) Chekichu 2) Mbú 3) Tangan 4) Lenga Foeghang 5) Wanggu
6) Yong anbum 7) Tam eyuecha 8) Chawakun 9) Nggongene 10) Nggongaji
11) Che Yuendong 12) Che-Wamnyu 13) Moekala 14) Che Foelai 15) Tamanbong

(We ask if other chiefs are related to the Fon.)
Saf talk for isa'nda is duu mojem. The Fon of Jung (Ajung) is of his father's family. The Fon Saf, when Fon Jung dies, will put his successor on the throne. Njicha at Iden (Din) is related to him. At Nkol there are some people. There is a nji who is installed by Fon Saf. Also a brother of the Fon, Chem, is there. Nji Foncho at Nkol is of the family of Ta Chia here.

Saf has given a boundary to Achan. Saf was here before Achan, which was a friend, and begged land from the Chief.


(We ask about old allies.)

Mbamelo, Sawe and Saf were at one, 'eating one thing'. There was no war between them.

Bikom came and fought them. They had no other enemies. They did not know of war. When the Alung came they wanted to join them.

(Other societies.)

They got mfu' from Fiyo some long time ago. Before Bum came manjong was called wus - the same thing as njong.

For further information contact Ian Fowler