Bernhard Ankermann

"Völkerkundliche Aufzeichnungen im Grasland von Kamerun 1907-9" (Ankermann's ethnographic fieldnotes taken in the Cameroon Grassfields) ed. H. Baumann and L. Vajda, Baessler-Archiv, NF. BA. VII/2, 1959, 297-298.

[Ankermann made a field-trip, apparently in 1908, with his wife "via Bamenda... and Babekom to Befom-Bum [sic] and from there to the Ndu Lake, and via Nyos to Bafum-Men and then back by the same route".... This is inter alia briefly described in an article in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1910 (Vol. 2), 288-310. It is often difficult to disentangle 'Bafum' in general, which he recognizes as a 'culture area', from Bum proper. He describes the large, well-made houses with raised floors, inside and out, in detail and with admiration and notes that only in 'Bafum', as in Bafut and Bandeng (Mankon), are "really large and high chief's houses seen; they do not occur further north."]

"In front of the chiefly compounds in Bafum-Bum, Nyos, and Bafum-Men there stretched a large, right-angled, carefully levelled courtyard surrounded by houses. To make it level the ground in Bum had been artificially removed: in the middle there was a round mound of earth, a meter high, where one or two trees had been allowed to remain, in which there was an earthenware pot, presumably for sacrifices... in one of the courtyards of the Bum Chief's compound the previous Chief was buried. The grave was in a corner. It was bordered on one side by a house and on another by the connecting wall of two houses. The other two sides were surrounded by a matting fence. Outside at the angle of the fence there stood a forked stake with a pot for medicine in the fork. The grave itself was a low mound. On it was a stake, some 150cm high, with leaves wound round it. Beside it was a spear, to which fowl feathers were stuck. Apart from these a variety of different things stood or lay on the grave: a large china vase, a sun-helmet, a tea pot, a broken earthenware dish. At the head of the grave, against the connecting wall, was a bench, on and below it was a carved wooden bowl, a stool of spider design and an old phonograph. The entry to the grave was hung with a bedspread.

In the courtyard in front of the grave the men meet from time to time to drink palm wine and pour some on the grave. The feathers on the spear suggest that fowls are sacrificed too."

[The interest of this note is that between late 1905, when Glauning visited Fon Tam, and 1908, he had died. Pieces of European china were, we know from occasional displays of treasures we were privileged to see, highly appreciated in the Grassfields and collected by chiefs, their value reckoned in slaves. Sun-helmets were a not unusual gift from Europeans but the old phonograph - a wind-up gramophone with a horn, such as Ramsay carried around with him in 1902 - is more of a curiosity. Ankermann, for his part, collected some interesting items from 'Bafum' for the Berlin Museum at which he worked.]

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