7. A Temporary Estrangement

(From File NW 330 - Sawe-Bum)

[A.D.O's notes] 22-23 January 1939

The outstanding event in Bum was a dispute between Bum and Sawe - an argument over tax two years ago. The Bum chief detained Sawe in the Nkwifon house for 2 days - tactless since Sawe acknowledged the primacy of Bum but was independent. Sawe's pride was hurt because he was imprisoned because 2 or 3 of his people owed tax. Sawe then spread the story that the Bum chief owed him £15. Bum took umbrage and took him to Court in March 1937: Sawe was ordered to pay £10 for refusing to pay tax and slandering the chief. The Chief of Bum is held in respect and the Court was reluctant to admit that the Fon of Bum was at fault. However, after discussion the quarrel ended. The Bum Chief in the presence of his elders took the first steps towards reconciliation. Sawe announced the dispute was over. In November 1937 the Fon supported the application of the Chief of Sawe (Ngwi) for a DB gun licence. (A Minute notes that they are now on good terms.) But in August 1941 the Chief of Bum (who signs himself Tum, Bum N.A.) says that Sawe has not paid for the shotgun which originally belonged to the Chief's own son Chia, who has died. Tum was informed by the D.O. in September 1941 that Sawe was "the biggest man in Bum" after himself and the best man to hold a permit and gun. "It is not good," the D.O. writes, "for you to start another quarrel with Ngwi of Sawe". Sawe says that he has, in fact, paid £15. He had wanted to buy a gun from the D.O. but the Chief told him to buy his. [The Fon had obtained permission (19.ii.40) to lend Sawe his gun. Sawe finally returned the gun in early 1943.]


Further trouble is recorded between the Fon of Bum and Chief of Sawe, who had refused to hand over a leopardskin. For this he was fined £2 by the Court and ordered to hand over the leopardskin. After discussion with the Bum Council, S.D.O. Brayne-Baker confirmed the fine but made it clear that the skin must not be taken from Sawe by force. The Fon says he does not want to revive old quarrels, but he has the support of the other sub-chiefs who say that Sawe has no right to the skin.


The skin was returned to the Fon of Bum, but minus whiskers and teeth [important for 'medicine' and privileged ornament]. This matter was referred to and discussed by the Council and as a result Sawe has promised to return the whiskers and teeth and the feud would then be at an end. [Nothing further on the file - subsequent events suggest a reconciliation.]

[EMC comments: DB Shotgun licences were sparingly issued by the British administration, on conservationist as well as security grounds. The restriction on them transformed them into a prestigious possession and requests for licences were often presented in terms of historic claims and a successor's right to administrative recognition. The divisional files relating to the issue of gun licences are therefore of interest in providing a sort of Who's Who of the period. For other trade guns see J.-P. Warnier in Paideuma 26, 1980.]

Glossary Contents Working Notes
Sally Chilver's Field Diary Phyllis Kaberry Fieldnotes Published Account

For further information contact Ian Fowler