A Final Meeting at Su-Bum

28th June 1963

[We had arranged to meet the Fon of Bum here on a court day. The Fon of Munggong (Nggong) came ahead to meet us, and EMC was able to collect a brief word-list from him. EMC's notes, which follow, have been checked against PMK's record.]

The Fon of Munggong looked very young to us, but, he says, he was born around 1925-1927. He has 4 wives and 19 children. He succeeded in early 1960. He had been to the Roman Catholic School at Kamini for a spell and got to Standard III. (He understands English well.)

XXD about traditions of settlement: he says they were first at KPWO, on the banks of the KIMBI river and below the forest, where they now are. There was division among them: there was some "fighting over water" (cause obscure - a frequent gambit in origin myths though). Some went to DIN - He cannot remember the name of the Fon of Din but says they go to one another's cry-dies - see PK's 1960 Din notes.

Another lot went to Mbonggoem (Bonggom) near Tabeken (Tang- Mbo). PK intervenes to say that she has heard that Bonggom came out of Tabeken, which he firmly denies: he says this may be a small hamlet with a similar name, but his Mbonggoem is definitely near Tabeken.

XXD about earlier chiefs. These were:

  1. Ndeancong - Led the people from Kpwo to the present site
  2. Kiyang - He does not know his relationship to No. 1. In his reign 'Fon Din' and also Mbonggoem left
  3. Nshi - Son of 2 and father of 4. There were Fulani raids in his reign
  4. Tinkfu [PK. Tinku, Tengku or Tenku in tax-lists] - A young boy when he succeeded. He 'met the Germans' and did not die till 1960. Repeats that he 'worked for the Germans' *
  5. Present Fon - Succession is filial, he says

* Munggong was a regular stopping place on the route to Kentu post.

XXD on language affiliation. He says that Munggong has the same language as Nkor, Lassin, Din, Mbiim (Biim), Kibo and Mbisha (Bissa). He includes Kamini. (He has said earlier he could 'hear' Nchanti talk; it 'changed small', but NB he had gone to school there.) The Munggong language, named Nzima-Munggong is the same as that of Fio, and also Mbamlo, in Bum. But Mbuk is different and Mbuk and Nfat are the same (see PK's notes of April on Fio [Shuo]).


XXD about main rites; he says there is a 'big pot' used for war medicine and hunting, called Shangi Gong - the house for this medicine is ye-gong (gong - spear). The man at the head of it, in charge of the medicine, is Shita. He is a 'Big Man for Country' but is not a royal. All men must join there. The title for the leader is Tsoe-Gong. (Note that Shita appears to be the name or title of the predecessor of the present incumbent: see below).

XXD about rites for corn. He says, yes, they go to Kpwo for this. They do this at the time for planting guinea-corn [Sorghum]. In a big calabash they make 'country medicine'. All women bring a little corn and this is placed in the pot-calabash. In morning- time they put some medicine on chests of people; some medicine is taken to the farms. The medicine is called Kifule Kiwong and the house where it is done Ye-wong La'. The rite for guinea-corn is done in June by the Chief alone.

XXD on how case were judged originally. The Chief replies that 'all Big People would join for Ye-Gong' to judge cases.

It is this house which also gives orders. It has 10 hereditary members, 9 plus the Chief. The remaining 9 members are non-royals; they are important compound heads. There is no payment on accession to membership. Shita is second to the Chief: the present successor is Mbongla. [Do we infer that Shita is the title and Mbongla a personal name?] No, we never had Kwi'fon here.

Rites are also made in Ye-Gong. Mimbo is put in a pot - there is no slaughtering of animals for this - and it is made with honey (see Pollock's Assessment Report, 1927). He emphasizes that no 'King pikins' are among the 'Big Nine'. No princess is present: no women are there.

XXD The term for the mother of the Fon is Mwamfa. When she dies a Fon's sister is taken to represent her.

XXD re installation of the Fon. Only certain members of the Nine have a role. Those who have a role are Shita, Kombang, Tiya, Fuka, and Njinkwa (? Jinkwa). Before the rite begins he is beaten. They knock (splash) medicine into his eyes and shave his hair. (He is uncertain of the sequence, and now says he is beaten when he 'comes out'.) He is beaten because there is no chance to beat him again. Then he is secluded in a house for 'two years' [??] and not let out except to relieve himself. Then he is brought out from the house which is called YE BA-BANGAMSHA-WU (or NWU - this is a very uncertain rendering). Gifts are given him when he comes out. This house is not the house of the country or the house of the spear or the burial hut. This is done in the dry season.


XXD re burial of the Fon. The term for the burial place is FUNG (or Fü ?). The death is kept secret for four or five days. The five Big Men who are involved in the installation select others to dig the grave. A bed of raffia poles is made - called NJANJUA - covered with Bikom cloth. The Fon is wrapped in cloths and is laid on his back with his head facing towards the sunset. Then there is mourning for the dead chief.

XXD whether there is a general term for the big people of YE-GONG:
Yes it is BAKFUNG BA YE-GONG (? BANKFUNG). Members provide mimbo when there is a meeting. Now it functions for part of the time as a JANGGI (rotating credit club).

XXD re other 'jujus': He replies he has LUNG which is like MBOENG, in Bum proper. It goes out at night and is not to be seen by anyone except members - never women. If a man sees it, he it seized and made to join it by payment. The head of it is the Fon and Kombang, one of the Nine. When a woman dies in pregnancy, LUNG makes medicine and buries her. It also buries suicides and those with leprosy and swollen belly.

XXD whether there are any rites in which ashes are blown away.
Yes, if any of his sons fall sick he would ask a NGGAMBE man (diviner) the cause. Then he would join all people in the house. Each man present takes ashes from the Chief's fire, and places a little in the Chief's hand. Then the Chief calls on his fathers and on God: says, "make God stand there to drive ill away". Then he blows ashes away.

XXD any other jujus? He has KILA, a dance for cry-dies. It is danced in the wet season: it will cool the weather, it 'dances rain'. The Chief is the head, helped by Kijibé. Kijibé paid much for his position.

XXD about names for quarters. He says there are only small ones - they appear to be compounds. (We did not attempt to list them as time was short.)

XXD if there is anything like IBIN. He says that in December all big men go to Kpwo. "We beg all things for Kwpo": (BEJI LA MO FE KPWO). Each big man sits on a stone. Kijibé (successor to Shita) sings and we all answer. Each man takes some ashes and places them in the hands of Kijibé, the Chief being the last to do this. Then everyone, including the Chief, bends his head. They must not look where Kijibé goes and blows the ashes away. Bad things would come if they did. He who looks would become blind. Kijibé prays that there should be no trouble in the country, that all bad things be driven away. This is done in the dry season since it is at this time that many bad things come, including sickness. (Can this be right? We have Mbongla as Shita earlier).


XXD, says there are no sacrifices of dogs (as in Funggom).

XXD, re sacrifices at Chiefs' graves. All sons and daughters of Fons may be present. The Fon throws wine on the ground, takes some earth on which wine has fallen and makes a stroke on the forehead of those present. No goats or fowls are sacrificed.

He adds - Mang is a medicine for pikins and twins. [We have to break off as the Fon of Bum has arrived, with him Ful Mwancum and Fon Sawe and two others, including Cia, a Compound Head of Su-Bum, where the Fon is staying.]

The Cësu Tutso

We ask whether Nggong-Akang was ALUNG or Cinawut. According to his genealogy he was originally of the matrilineage Kumambo (see 12.iv.63). PK explains.

The Fon claimed he was Alung and then went through his genealogy and said that the father of Tumen-Njang-Ngganga was Alung on his own father's side. The others agreed. It was Tumen who said that his own son, Nggong, was to succeed him. (We have no time to follow this up, but it looks likely that the switch to patrilineal descent is connected with the Alung status of his father.) He concludes by saying that Kumambo was Nggong's SA'SENDA, but through his father he was Alung.

When PK mentioned Cekun as Cinawut, the Fon agreed that the 'Koti branch' was and said that the 'large clan name' was Ndatitica. (Cp. Kom Ndotitica.) Missom belonged to this. He agreed Missom was Cinawut.


Ndacum and other big men of Kwi'fon

PK checked through the Fon's list of early 'big men' and corrected the information obtained in April (10.iv.63).

It is then agreed, at last, that all members of Ndacum were Cinawut, as we had suspected.

The Fon's Burial

Njito' is in charge of the burial. Fon Sawe and Ful assist. Bala (Ndifoba) and Yangsi of Fonfuka also. These five are in charge. The body is washed and then rubbed with camwood mixed with castor oil. The body is then wrapped in white baft.

XXD PK asks whether bark-cloth was not used. The reply at first was that it was not used here, but a further question elicits that they did use a little to cover the face, and formerly used more (it is called agúm, Ficus ?). The cap is removed. The body is not buried immediately, but 'lies in state'. The children of the palace and notables 'come to see their father for the last time'.


Ful 'carries' the body. (Does this perhaps mean 'hold up' while the body is viewed ?) With him he has got Fon Sawe and Njito'. Ful makes marks where the grave is to be dug - noblemen in general dig the grave. There are two chambers - the Fon is buried in the inner one. Bamboos (raffia poles) are laid to line the chamber - No, not camwood sticks, as in Kom, though it is agreed that these would be tough and more durable. On these poles 'blankets' - i.e. cloths - are fixed and the body reclines. There is no bamboo going down to the mouth, as on Funggom side. Outside the burial chamber Ful sacrifices a goat: its right back leg is removed, placed in a pot and put in the grave. Full then claps hands and prays:

"Father rest in peace and give us blessings until the time we are to follow you. Represent us to God. You will see where God is. Protect the country, since no one will be judging as well as you."

(This is the Fon's version, translating Ful's.) Then senior princes and princesses, and the five people who have been in charge of the burial eat the remainder of the goat. A gun is fired to announce the burial. Everyone then goes bareheaded. Kwi'fon opens the mourning period. People - notables and relatives - bring fowls and pluck feathers so that they fall down on top of the grave (which is filled in). (During this discussion the Fon checked constantly with Ful and Fon Sawe.)

Kwi'fon opens the mourning period and dances - it is followed by Mkong, then Cong. Other jujus follow but the order is not important. Mkong is the most important juju for the cry- die. It is not for war, despite the references to 'spear' (Kong = spear). It is pointed out that Nso' also has Mkong (Mekong).

Funeral celebrations may go on for a period of some six years, since surrounding chiefdoms may bring in their jujus for the cry- die at different periods, but it may be finished in two or three years. After a year or two the Fon calls in all his family for a cry-die celebration. All Alung would come. This is to show "he is the true representative of the late Fon and is representing him now".

Installation of the Fon; removal of heirs

(In this account the Fon continually refers to Fon Sawe and Ful, both important actors. PK notes that, as so often happens, the chosen heir is not clear about the sequence of events and who is doing what since at the time he is bewildered and wrought up by events.)

First of all the heir is seized by Kwi'fon from among the people assembled in the palace courtyard. At this point people rush forward to pummel and slap him: their last chance he says. [No throwing of clods and stones, it seems, as e.g. in Bafut.] This happens as he is conducted by Kwi'fon to the Ntul house, where he is handed over to Njito' and Ful. Fon Sawe is also inside as witness, but no one else is present. He is stripped so that he only has on his 'drawers' (small loin cloth). Olot is put round his neck. Mashed leaves are mixed with castor oil and he is anointed with this, especially on the skull. Then the cap is put on his head. [PK: Note that the Fon of Bum also witnesses the installation of Fon Sawe.] The first Fon's stool, left in the Efum, is brought in and rubbed with the same medicine. He is placed, very gradually, on the stool. Those who do so, Njito' and Ful, clap hands to him. Then he is taken out and shown to the people assembled in the palace piazza. Njito' says: "This is your new Fon: obey him, as you did the late Fon - he is your leader." And says to the Fon, "The country is for you". Then guns are fired and there are shouts.


XXD PK asks, why Kwangga was in Mbot when Tam died? The Fon replies: They say he was sent there by Tam who had it in mind to make him his heir, so he was sent there for safety, so as to escape the hatred of his brothers. He himself, John Yai, was sent by his father to Enugu.

XXD PK asks whether Tam also went to Kom for the same reason. He replies, No. He had gone to escape from 'tribal wars' - the Mbangcu raids. He went to Anjin (no, not Achain, as we have in 1960 and PK's April notes will need correction). It was where his mother's people were. It transpires that Yuendong had been there. Her brother was Kighoen (not sure I heard this right) and Tam took refuge with him. Her mother was Naya. Funkuyn was a 'sister'. [NB: In Kom our questions had been based on the false supposition that Yuendong came from Achain, a sub-chiefdom of Kom.] Those present are emphatic that Anjin is in question - it can be seen from Njicam (Jicame) near Belo. [It is not clear whether Funkuyn was regarded in this account as a sibling of Yuendong or a 'sister' in a broader sense. Funkuyn's mother is usually given as Nain, daughter of Naya.]

When Tam returned to Kom he was still young and had not succeeded as Fon. It was later that he succeeded and moved his palace to Lagabum. [PK wondered whether the impregnability of Laikom had impressed Tam, and whether he imitated it, and whether if his mother was indeed a Waynjemtefoyn, it would explain Foyn Yu's attempts to claim suzerainty over him.]

Lagabum institutions

XXD re meetings of Ndatut - it did not meet weekly, but only when summoned or when rites had to be performed.

XXD whether there were two kinds of Kwi'fon, night and day, as elsewhere. He replies: Kwi'fon comes out by day: that which comes out at night is Kwi'fon ntuku, but there is no difference in their membership - all are members of ndeakwi'fon - only in their actions.


XXD whether there is a house for sasswood at Lagabum, as in Kom. Not at Lagabum. Gu (gwu) was administered in the bush.

XXD whether there was a special medicine for suicide. A medicine called Kúm is thrown on the body before it is cut down. Here in Su-Bum it was owned by one Sang, a Cinawut. It was obtained from Kwoshin (Koshin) originally. It is kept in a special house, and people pay to join to get the medicine. The leprosy medicine is different and called Sitci.

XXD Whether there is any rite in which a dog is sacrificed. Yes, when a man has swollen legs [dropsy or elephantiasis], a dog is killed by the ngganga-kum [a type of healer], mixed with medicine and applied.

XXD Is there a distinction between night and day witches? Yes, when a witch comes at night a person has bad dreams and knows he is hated by someone. But 'witch of the day' comes as a strong wind (wind = afuf ?). They are four-eyed men coming from an invisible country. They are wut ase aba. They have power to change themselves: they have ifinti. They can disappear. It is an invisible country called Msà, where many things are, all kinds of wealth, guns, and so on. Dead people go to Msà. There is something like a culvert [i.e. an arch or gate]. It is not only in one place. There is such a place near Su-Bum called Nduni, covered by a waterfall, and you can hear guns being fired, and singing. There is another at the Kimbi river, at Kunta, near 'Three Corners', where you turn off for Fonfuka. [EMC: it is an echo by a spring.] The guns can be heard by anyone. He has heard them as if a death was being celebrated. (There are nods all round.) [PK notes - compare with the Kom Sawi and Funggom Mse.]

XXD were sacrifices made for guinea-corn in Ntut? Water was put into a pot with wild garden eggs - funyak. Then you cut a place on the ground and stamp on the funyak. If it breaks in the middle it is a good sign. Then men in the country who have the nggun medicine make rites for crops. (See PK's April notes.)

XXD Are there any rites for a slayer after battle? There is a medicine called ISI KUMOENI. This was to "kill the power of bad action". The medicine was buried, or rather placed on top of the skull of a man killed in war.

XXD On peace-making after war. Who were the envoys? Everybody present is trying to remember who took part in the peace negotiations which happened in English times. There had, they say, been a second attack by Kom before the arrival of Zintgraff. They are sure that Missom (from Ndacum) and Njito' (from Ndatut) were there, also Ful-Mata of Fonfuka, Yangsi's predecessor. Peace was finally made in about 1920.

Everybody is now rather tired. As we have been talking other people have entered the court house and sat down after greeting the Fon. We present a case of beer which we had brought - it is taken by the Fon and Sawe. One bottle is handed over to a senior prince (the leader of LANGA we think) to share with another - the rest kept. Ndifon Bala arrived after we had finished questions. Phyllis takes photographs. A really princely gesture follows. The Fon presents us with a fine leopard skin, 6 fowls, 2 dozen eggs, and a ram. We stammer our thanks, overwhelmed by this generosity. Omer [our Nso' steward] is almost dancing as he packs the landrover, and says Fon Bum is a "proper Fon".

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

For further information contact Ian Fowler