FONFUKA - June 8th 1960

Esther and NanambangWe arrived in the Landrover at the river at about 10.45 a.m. where we were met by Pastor Dom {short description of image} and the Baptist School Teacher, Mr Daniel Bang, and walked up to Fonfuka with them, a walk of about 10-15 minutes on the flat. We found the Fon sitting in the courtyard of a big Quarterhead's place - the compound reminiscent of that of a Nso' kibay, of traditional houses in excellent repair. He was under an umbrella, sitting on a folding garden chair over which a velvet cloth had been thrown. We were most affably greeted and given similar chairs, presented with a ram, and given beer. The Fon is wearing a blue denim tunic over a heavily embroidered Bali-type gown. Two ivory horns were sounded by two women - one called Esther, a princess, and one wearing a chaplet of white beads, evidently a Fon's wife. Yet another - also with a white bead chaplet - is serving him wine from a calabash with a raffia-palm leaf stopper. A row of elderly men are sitting on stones opposite. "Some are my stepfathers," he says. He explained our visit to them - the respectful answer seems to be "Mbe".

Phyllis asked him what struck him most during his visit to England for the 1958 Constitutional Conference. "It was very peaceful," he said, "and the people are nice to one another." Certain things were "the same", not merely similar. The Queen was approached through intermediaries: in Bum access to the Fon is through chindas, acisendasu. The Queen has special "things" (regalia). She administers justice through councillors. He does not himself judge cases - "it only makes you hated" - but confirms the judgement of his senior men. He has asked about the law and thought that a great deal was "the same".

We then went down to the bridge where a community road was being built, leading into the valley and market. At first the Fon went ahead, we following, then came the two hornblowers, the elders in the rear. As we approached the bridge the hornblowers went ahead and the men carrying earth stood still while the Fon addressed them, thanking them for the work, his words repeated by a spokesman. While he spoke the wives bent over; Esther stood.


After this he kindly summoned some carriers to help bring our loads to an airy new house used as a rest house - the inner chamber is hung with blue white tie-and-dye cloth of the type called ndzoey njav in Nso' - Omer Sitan recognized it at once. The Fon went back to await D. O. Wum (Griffin) at the bridge, while we settled in. I had spotted some Hausa women selling ground-nut oil in beer bottles and went to get some.

Around 3 o'clock a message came that the Fon would call if we were rested - really, what consideration - and then he arrived preceded by horn-blasts. A chair was brought out and draped over - showing this was a social call - we can have questions and "history" tomorrow. I am asked to explain what is meant by "institutions". He says his noblemen must be present for discussions. Phyllis asked if important people stayed with him at Lagabum. No: they came up for the day to Lagabum - which was like parliament - kwi'fon on its own day, and so on. He says we should address him as Fon - chief can mean anything; after all one could say "chief carpenter", "chief steward", etc. He then suggested we go outside.

Here a man was playing and singing to a four-stringed lyre (lung), one knocking a small single gong, another blowing an open-ended flute, the lung player dancing a little. There are occasional blasts on the horns and interjections from the Fon. The performance was said to be called ilung langa - and the theme song, the Fon's favourite, says "Man must live and love," he says. One of the councillors, Ndifon Bala, danced with the singer. A group of children were formed into a ring and encouraged to dance. Some Mbororo'en then came - clapped hands, some squatted and put their hands, palms down, on the ground before them. When the Fon spat, Esther ("King-pikin"), standing behind him, covered the spittle with dust with her heel.

After he left, Phyllis collected some phrases and nominals from a young man, "brother" to Daniel Bang, who called. The language evidently falls into the same group as Kom and Nso', closer to Kom, but seems to me fairly far removed from Limbum and Bafut-Mankon: anyway, that is my hunch.

The Fon called again at about 7.30 p.m. bringing with him his elderly "stepfather" (FB?) Ndifon Bala and we hear what he knows of traditions of origin (Cp. Pollock and Bridges).

The original name of his people was Wimbum - which, for example, includes Mbot, Ndu and Wat, and they came here "because of a misunderstanding" - they had to "cancel" the name because of disputes, and took the name Bum. "Wiya" means "we are here", "Ndu" means "go", because they were taken captive by the Northerners.


The Fon of Mbot cannot be enthroned, nor buried, without the presence of Fon Bum. If the Mbot people were to bury their Fon without him, or his representative, being present, they would have to dig him up again. The Fon of Bum provides the camwood for rubbing on the body. When the Mbot Fon falls sick, a report of the sickness must be brought to Bum, in detail - saying what kind of disease or accident had occurred. Otherwise his servants would be blamed for his death.

When a Fon of Bum dies, all without exception must remove their caps, including the installer Njito', who is the first to do so. But not everyone may wear a cap. It is either an "inherited right", or a privilege given by the Fon. His "stepfathers" are his father's brothers and are Ndifon, personal name Bala or Baliwa; the second is Ful, who corresponds to the Bafut Moma. They are his close advisers - the Fon "cannot go against their voice" and they represent him everywhere. The Fon of Bansso knows them. They were originally put on the Federal Council [i.e. the Federal N.A.]. Then there are the Coe'oesi - "important people". There are about 50, but some are more important than the rest and are headed by Njito', who installs the Fon. [I first wrote Che'su.]

(It was not in Njito's compound that we met this morning. Anyway he was there later, and Phyllis photographed him - a bare torso, simple loincloth and cap, inconspicuous until he spoke, quiet and dignified.) Fon says: "He looks like a simple man, but everyone listens to him." He was down at the bridge directing operations with Daniel Bang, when the Fon spoke, through Ndifon Bala.

The Fon reminds us that Bum was the first place in Bamenda to which the Hausa came and their settlements were under the jurisdiction of Bum. "The importance of Bum was it looked after strangers," he says.

Yes ntul (I had heard ntut) is at Lagabum, and it should be called that rather than ndatut.

During the Baranyam raids the people of Fonfuka hid in caves in the mountains nearby.

[Collected earlier from Peter Banga] Days of the Week

  1. Nwonggo - 9/6/60 - a farm day
  2. Foekahi - "native Sunday"
  3. Nwong-kumoeli
  4. Yiensa - "Council" and Kwi'fon day
  5. Tokukwa - ntul meets
  6. Tokumbum - rest day and market day
  7. Mewun
  8. Saf'wun

Kitchowi, "Sub-chief" of Saf lives at Nggunakimbi, he says. (Is this a personal name, a place name, or nickname? See later.)

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