Fonfuka - June 9th 1960

The Fon, Ndifon Bala, Ful. c. 10 a.m.

1. Mbaktefwa led the people who had come from Mbiribo, buried in Bum at Ngunabum
2. Digatita buried at Ngunabum
3. Mwandum " " "
4. Mboefafa " " "
5. Wasa " " "
6. Mbangakoe " " "
7. Yundi* " " "
8. Tam transferred palace to Lagabum, met the first German
9. Kwangga Father of present Fon.

* The last there, ruled only four years. There followed a Regency under Njang-a-Yiwi - "held the throne as a woman", a "daughter of Yundi, niafon" (but see later).

The reason Njang-a-Yiwi was put on the throne was that Tam was a "child" - he had been living at Nggunabum. Njang-a-Yiwi had been niafon to Yundi before he died. When she died her daughter succeeded with the title of njang. Madam Nanambang is her daughter - this is a new title given by the late Fon [we can't get a meaning - we're told "people liked the name, it is distinctive"]. It is similar to niafon: she is still active and goes to the ntul house.

The Fon says he has recently heard that the Wimbum people came from Tikari amd that it was 'tribal wars' that brought them to Mbot, or rather Mbiribo. But he knows nothing of the earlier story - we must ask at Mbot. Their own history is a continuation of that of Mbot. "Mbiribo" really means a group of people who travelled together giving names to places at which they stayed - the implication is that they were "powerful people".

After leaving Mbiribo, the leader and princes settled at Nkol. A prince, son of Mbaktefwa, by name Nko'nda, settled there. Then they settled at Jotenabum where Jiyun and his followers settled. Another prince settled at Iden (Din), name unknown.

Zintgraff slept at Lagabum, with his dog. He spent two days there. He also spent the night in the compound of the QH of Fonfuka (who now is Yangsi). Then he went to Achan, and then to the forest of Anjinkom in Bikom. He came in the time of Tam.

The Germans suggested that some Bum should meet the Europeans at Bamenda (wonder if this is Glauning's visit in 1905?). The Fon sent Sala' and Ndongjuwang, both chindas, and Nji Banga, a big man of Kwi'fon and Ful went with them as a small boy.

The Germans were doing "community work" there and the Bum people were shown it. They were given a flag, two boxes of cloth, a box containing pipes, and a box of tobacco. Ful - this is his personal name - being the son of a Fon was sent to represent him. All except Ful are dead.

(Pastor Dom had told us yesterday that the proper term for a very big man was nji - Limbum terms were not in use.)


[We return to Mbaktefwa]
One prince, son of Mbaktefwa (name forgotten) went on to Nggunabum - with his father. When the Fon came he met Sawe, then Saf, then Kun, then Buwabuwa, then Mbamlu, then Fioo, then Mbuk, then Munggong, then Nfat. All these spoke different dialects and all were overcome by the Mbiribo people, save Sawe who gave them land to settle on at Ngunabum, which is on Sawe land, and remained an ally. Nggun-a means farming land of (Cp. Lam Nso' nggvoen). At Nggunabum there were people called Kun and the place was originally called Tangakun. Saf was the second to 'submit'. The word for 'conquered people' is nggumi - their chiefs are still fon. ("It's important," he says, "for fonship to be maintained.") There are no regnal names - "Tum" was simply a nickname for his father Kwangga.

He thinks all conquests must have been made by Mbaktefwa - "there is no 'record', really, of the sequence of conquests".

He thinks that the Baranyam or Fulani came in from the N.E. in the time of Digatita or Mwandum, at a guess. We question this and he says there are three terms - 1) Mbangtshu 2) Puli 3) Timoendum - he thinks the last are Chamba. Jukun people came along with Bala (foreigners). Ndifon Bala is so named. He thinks it was in these reigns because nothing of the sort happened again until the reign of Yundi who was killed near the Nkambe boundary by Biim while he was fighting around Nchanti, Kibo and Lassin. He reigned c.4 years - his clothes were stolen by his killers, his "war-material" by Nchanti and Kibo - only his body was brought back. Mbangakoe reigned a long time and was a peaceful ruler. "At that time [? Mbangakoe's] Kom was attacking Bum and so were the Mbangtshu, so the Fon moved the palace to Lagabum.

(The other two are insistent that Ngunabum was burned in the time of Digatita. They took - the Mbangtshu did - slaves and went north again.)

Mbangakoe was ruling when Nsanguf's head was taken [i.e. 1885-8. Impossible, see what follows].

Tam had been ruling a long time when Zintgraff (1889) arrived since he had children of "some 25" years born after he succeeded. He died before Kamenda came here. When Kamenda came Kwangga was ruling - Kamenda killed two native cows. Tam died at Bamenda Station [? 1908-9. If true the Kamenda visit is not that of Glauning (1905) but a later one - but we are clearly in some 'before and after' confusion; and see Ankermann.]

Koshin, Kung and Fwang (Fang) and Mandabi are seen as "relatives" [i.e. affines]. They lived in Bum before going to where they are now. Koshin was first at Buwabuwa. They went to the forest side in the time of Tam who was protecting smaller villages against Bikom.

Achan, now in Kom, were "brothers" with Bum when the Fons were at Nggunabum. Balem, Dula and Achan were all part of Bum and were attacked by Bikom in the time of Tam. Funggom was attacking Fwang, and Tam sent people to help Fwang against them.

The cloth equivalent to ndzoey njav is called doma. This is woven (?) and sewn together here and sent to Takum to be dyed, they say - I think this may mean that the patterns are 'sewn in' here.

[Some vocabulary collected - n.b. munto - corr. to wanto', pl. awonoetoka, 'children of the palace - cinawut pl., acinawoet, commoner. They say na'tum corresponds to nanambang, as 'head of njang, a women's society.']


After lunch people assemble in Yangsi's yard, awaiting the D.O's arrival, among them Amu'nggwa - a chinda who has served the Fon for long - an aged man. He has been given an ivory armlet and a gown with a red 'moon' on the back (cp. Bali) as a sign of favour. He sits near Ful. Also present some Fulani ardo'en, both Aku and Jafun, Fon Saf, Njito', some compound heads. Fon says " we have tantos too". When young men come out of kwi'fon they may be given this title (see later). Ful and Ndifon are much to the fore.

The Fon says that the bodies of commoners used to be thrown into rivers, but the practice was abandoned when they were told it poisoned the water (see Zintgraff).

He says he makes a point of seeing all villages about three times a year - "goes on tour". He sends word about three weeks in advance so that a lodging is prepared for him. He comes with Ndifon, Njito', Ful, some chindas - "councillors" may join in the retinue. So he sees what is going on in the country. But, he continued, "kwi'fon is government" and the important thing about it is "not the gong and instruments but that it governs".

Now we, as women, may not enter there, "because kwi'fon punishes people". We can enter the ntul house and see what is there. "Ntul stands for peace, kwi'fon stands for enforcement". He insists that it is a "real Bum thing" and not taken over from others. It "means (signifies) people and the Fon together".

When he is on tour a senior chinda is left behind at Lagabum to receive and pass on reports in case his intervention is necessary. There are three kinds of acisendasu - those with the Fon, his personal attendants, those who stay in kwi'fon for 3 or 4 years, and those who have "gone out". Usually the Fon gives an order to a tanto' who passes it on to a kwi'fon chinda for execution.

Yes, the Hausa used to be here in Fonfuka but moved to Nggunabum because of fire hazard (?). (While the Fon talks to the Ardo'en we talk to Pastor Dom and Councillor Daniel Bang. They say fine cloths used to be made by old Missom, Jeffreys' friend. He has died, but his sons are still working. There are others in Fonfuka who do some weaving. Mat-making is very important here, they say, and so is cap-making. A large variety of caps are made, including one with blue bobbles - anyone can buy it. But the cap worn by Ndifo Bala, a white tam-o'-shanter with hanging strings - rather like a string mop - is a sign of office, and a privilege.)


In a break Phyllis asks the Fon what are the qualities of a Fon and he replies "Endless patience, love and gentleness". For example, if he hears that a man has spoken ill of the Fon he makes a point of seeing him and finding out why he is disgruntled. He must try to bring him back, since no man should be alienated. He must also show peacefulness in dealing with other Fons and should not seek war.

Tam, he says, prophesied the coming of the Europeans - red or white men - and said nobody could stand against them so they had better make peace. Then the Germans came and fought the Bafut for about two years. Then they fought Banso', then Bikom [this is the wrong order]. After the Bikom war Tam went to meet the Germans. They said, "What do you want?" He said, "I come to make peace, I am a woman, I have no materials for war." [Cp. Glauning's account of the surrender of Oku, 1905.] The Germans stayed in Lagabum a few nights. Four bulls were killed for them. But they still suspected him and said: "Bafut, Banso', and Bikom have fought, so why don't you?" And he replied, "I am a woman. I have seen what has happened elsewhere". It was then that they told him to send someone to Bamenda. He

For further information contact Ian Fowler