FONFUKA - June 15th 1960

Peter had been sent by the Fon to help us. We get the line of his ibin, that of Kina.

Ful-Mata Nji (dec'd) John Kibu (son, deceased)
Nggong - Mata (honorific Tamfo)
Banga (elder, 5 sons)
Yangsi - Mata (honorificMbinglo')
Mmoek d. at Nggunabum Kina left Nggunabum, Nji Fongita
Yangsi-Shangka (dec'd)
Fuchi (dec'd)
Kin-jia (dec'd)
Lengga (10 sons) Kwa
Bensing (dec'd)
Jeremiah Ngká
Peter Banga - born after Banga's death and given his name

Njito' Mmoek died at Nggunabum. Kina left it about the same time as the Fon, because of Kom attacks. Kina was a Quarterhead and nji .

Lengga (or ? Loengga) had left his father's compound and had gone to settle at a site near the new market, and after the death of Kina Banga joined him there and the old compound scattered. Lengga was succeeded by Ful 'because he was the first-born' - by Mata. Ful-Mata was given the title of nji by 'all the quarter'. The Fon could not refuse because all the compound heads wanted it. (It looks here as if Banga had been too old to perform his duties.) After Ful-Mata died Nggong-Mata succeeded, and was given a title. He was briefly succeeded by Yangsi-Shangka - he had two 'palace titles', and then Nû succeeded, but he felt too tired for the work and agreed that Yangsi-Mata should succeed. (I think this means that he should have succeeded by seniority, but demurred. Cp. with Oku succession rules. E.M.C.)

Yes, Nggong-Mata had been settled elsewhere and came to the compound inherited by Ful-Mata at Yui near the market. Tamfô was the title of a man who guarded the Fon 'first time' (cp. Mbot Taramfo - but these are uterine relatives) and was of the Fon's family, an ancestor of Kina. The title had lapsed but was reassumed with 'the assent of the majority'. Waa Ba is of the same 'family' (ancestry ?) as Kina and might have claimed the title, but he backed it and also backed the title of Mbinglo (name of Nso' Fon 1907-72) for Yangsi-Mata. (Waa Ba is perhaps an affine?)

Yes, when Tamfo Nggong came to the present compound, the compound of Kina (ibin-a-Kina) was reunited.


Yes, Nû 'denied' the succession. See later for his rôles. (We ask who was concerned in the selection.)

Apart from family, Ta-ba, Banga-njang, Kimbi-ye, Waa Ba and Che Ndong came to consider, together with Ful Mwanchum, Njito' and Nya' of Akanko - the last divided long ago, but must be there with Ful and Njito' to enstool the heir. When the 'family' (i.e. here agnates and more distant collaterals, and perhaps uterines also) had decided, Waa Ba reported to Njito', and Njito' to the Fon. 'The Fon cannot deny' if there is agreement. When Yangsi went to the palace, he had his cup. He danced and the Fon called him by 'title' - Mbinglo' - and he came and the Fon poured wine into his cup. He did not pay for this. (I am still a bit mystified. We cannot get the term for these different honorifics, which are quite unlike the Nso' menkfoem or secret inherited eponyms, and I don't think the Kom hand-clappers are given honorifics.)

Yangsi, says Peter Banga, succeeded in 1948 and at this point was accorded the title of 'Tamfo' (as Nggong-Mata had been) and in 1951 he received that of Mbinglo' from the Fon, at the moment the Fon poured wine into his cup and called him by a 'new name'. (NB: that Mbinglo' is the own name of the reigning Fon Nso'.) [We ask about societies.]

The compound has munkong and mboeng (or ? mbing). Munkong, he says, was 'first Juju' in Bum and came from Mbirribo. It precedes all other jujus when there is dancing at Lagabum. It has 3 double gongs (nggem) and a nchum (pedestal drum) only. Mmoek had it. It is followed (in dance order) by Menang which came from Kunini on Nggunabum side, the earliest settlers were there. Waa Ba has menang: it has the same instruments as munkong but they are knocked differently. Mboeng is not seen by women and is danced at night. It came from Banso' side and Banga got it. Cong (Chong) came here because Peter's mother brought it from Nggap in Buwabuwa. When she died Buwabuwa took it back for her sister. When she dies it will come back to Peter's sister. It goes between sisters and then to the daughter of the first-born sister.


Genealogy omitted

The senior woman is called natum - "it is like nji". There may be more than one, but one is senior. It "means" a rich woman who has cong (and much chop) in her compound. Cóng refers to the instrument (a drone played inside a calabash) and there is also a calabash rattle and single bell. He says it is the same as in Funggom.

The man-Chong (Cóng) is different - it has a friction drum, also called Chóng (same tone) and the head Be-Chong is Nû, who is also head of munkong and is Be-mboeng. He has all these things because he is the elder brother. There is also njang for women.

The headwoman, Newin, is sister to Bala and was the senior wife of Lengga but was first married to Banga. It is the senior surviving wife who is mother of the compound -nebin - who is nenjang, a 'title' for njang. Njang has rattles (cha-cha) a pedestal drum, and scraper (akwà).

Mboeng is a medicine society. You must pay 5 fowls to see it to Nû, which all members chop. If you see and have not paid you sicken and die. There is a house for sacrifices - they cut a fowl there and say, "O God of my fathers" - and call them - "take this fowl, make peace in me, bless me fathers, look after my compound". The sacrifice is for the 'family' (isa'nda) but others may chop. Waa Ba has joined, but is not 'leading'.

Yes, they make a big sacrifice in the dry season - October- November. This is to prevent accidents while hunting, sickness, fire, lightning, to make God (Fiyen) and 'fathers' keep away trouble. (Fiyen fe bomon fo = 'God of my fathers'.) The sacrifice is at the graves of Kina (Kina fum). Nû goes. Men only are present.

A fowl is killed in the house, roasted, put in a calabash with oil (munggut), egusi (kunsu) and salt (fumwang). It is not eaten. Fufu, of guinea-corn or maize, is prepared. These are not eaten. Nû puts the chop by the grave - also a half-gallon calabash of wine and a half calabash of bundu (abé); some is rubbed on vessels. They remove caps, dress and shoes before they go into the fum. Nû says "God of my father - We keep these things (for you) - now chop. Tomorrow we get power". Food, wine, camwood is left there all night. They - big men of family - will go back again at about 5.30 a.m. They will call a cindà of the Fon to come down and take a share to the Fon. In the night the wine and food are diminished. Fiyen and the dead have taken some. The Fon drinks some of the wine because Kina was of the 'royal family'. What is then left is shared by the family. This is a distinction between royals (awanoetoka) and other families (asa'nda ngingi). [Cp. the Oku guinea-corn sacrifice, eaten by royals, "as gods".]


Waa Ba is the Fon's 'maternal uncle' (Aha!).

Kina's family is isa'nda lunge she faiyi a family of the Fon (Alung) which divided.

Yes, after the Fon has drunk, the remainder left in the fum is brought to the compound and all drink - men, women and children, and all put bundu (camwood) on the foot, between the big toe and the next. But (this is stressed) Fiyen and the 'fathers' must partake first, before the living do. Peter says he would partake of the sacrificial food from the fum, but would not enter it.

Waa Ba does not send wine to the Fon because he is a non- royal (cinawoet). However, Peter says that his own family has 'gone so far' that the Fon could take a woman from Kina's family. He himself has married a sister of the Fon and paid "dowry" of £40 in goats, money and other things. This is uka'. In addition he had to make gifts of oil to his wife's mother - 'expenses' are called muelem teremò (I think). It is not true that people don't pay 'dowry' for king-pikins now. He had to pay the uka' to Ful who is in charge of all things pertaining to the Fon's sisters and daughters. Ful then gives this to the Fon and would be given something by the Fon. As to the oil given to the bride's mother, she will divide some among her brothers and sisters and perhaps her father's sisters. He would only make a small payment to Ndifon Bala - a small thing if he visited the compound. He is not a close relative:

Genealogy omitted

She liked him so he approached Ful and she and the Fon agreed. But she has now gone back to Lagabum after bearing two children, who died. Yes, Peter has kept a record of all payments made. (Can he claim subsequent issue?)

[NB: that in reckoning distance from the Fon Peter counted all the lineage heads, i.e. not in terms of generations.]


We went down to Yangsi's to see the friction drum owned by the 'male' cóng. It was hanging in a raffia bag over the doorway of one of the houses. Peter could not touch it as he was 'too young' - i.e. only those who had paid sufficient fowls could handle it. Waa Ba took it down. Then a man (not identified) demanded wine and Peter told Phyllis she must pay a 'fowl'. So she presented a bottle of beer. He drew it out and played it (see Diagram 3).

The stick is first wetted before being plunged up and down. Another bottle was demanded for hanging the bag up again, but Phyllis laughed that one off.

(We pursue social categories with Peter Banga and Waa Ba.)

Waa Ba is a 'person of the ground' - aghoet-a-fe-cioe = 'people of the ground'. These have to give Chindas - e.g. those of Tang-a-Kunu quarters. So do the people of Saf but not the Fon Saf. Yes, the Fon's farms at Saf are worked by chindas from everywhere, supervised by awanoetoka. The Fon of Bum visits Saf and sleeps in his own house there. Fon Saf lives distant from Saf itself. (Does tang = hill ?)

Yes, Yangsi provides chop for the Fon and collects goats from each ncoe - he sends up vegetables and oil.

It is correct that the Fon goes on circuit to settle hard cases and Njito' and Ful must be with him to settle them.

The heads of Lungoe (Alung) apart from the Fon are Njito', Yangsi and Ful. The Fon can marry into Njito's people. And he has married one of Bala's 'daughters'. (Query - actual daughter or ward ?)

Yes, one can marry into mother's clan (big family) but not her lineage. One can marry into the compound of 'mother of grandmother'. "Three steps must have passed."

Yes, if no 'dowry' is paid, the child returns to MF's compound. A sister's child, if no bride-price has been paid, "fit chop chair" - can succeed to compound.


Mbamelo are "ground people". They have stones (for ancestors) and a big hole in the river where the water falls down. They call Fiyen here, and also ancestors.

Yes, it is true that Bum custom was to throw dead people into the water - all people who had no 'title', even young princes. Only titled people were buried. (Cf. Zintgraff.) The Mbamelo people threw their dead into the hole where the water goes down, it is near their ndatut. (Not sure I heard this properly.) They may not cut firewood there, but may hunt 'beef'.

The lightning medicine in front of the big houses of big men is to guard against a person who sends storms. (I try to get this without T/R. It sounds like woet foem wu li gbwad'ni.)

Yes, Nû gives out all 'family women'. But sometimes the child's (daughter's) mother "may confuse daughter head". MM has no say at all in disposal of her daughter's child.

Yes, the son of a chinda is always a chinda. 'First time' Kwi'fon came to the compound, but the head of it could choose any boy (i.e. a chinda is now 'always' the son of a chinda).

(Waa Ba alone.)
His brother was Babe in Kwi'fon. When he came out he went to Saf, to 'look after' the Fon's father (i.e. Kwangga). Njàngga was the name given him when he came out, meaning he had suffered much. When he began to come out (i.e. was ready to) his father got 'tins' of wine and one goat, to show he could come out. Then members of Kwi'fon came and gave the name. "It is like a certificate". Theatanto' are persons such as Babe is in nda'Kwi'fon. (I hear ndap Kwi'fon) - 'title' finishes when they die. Babe is tanto' in Kwi'fon - there is only one, but other youths who guard and serve the Fon are so called, but not until after they leave the palace.

No, he got no honorific or 'title' because he is 'Uncle' of present Fon. But he gave a son to be tanto'. He (the son) eventually ran away and went to school. It is customary for his family to give.


Waa Ba comes out from Kom - the first man was called Wanggo - this is the family name. He was at Tang-i-akunu, the Kun hills, where the Hausa market is. He died at Nggunabum. When Bum divided from there, his son Kangi built at Nggunakimbi. Njuk'ngga succeeded him.

Genealogy omitted

Jikifwo died at Nggunakimbi, and also Kita. He (Waa Ba) found Nggunakimbi too far in the bush, so came here with some others and was given land by Nggong-Mata of Kina here and also the title of coe which Kita had before him. Njuk'ngga gave his own daughter to Fon Kwangga. Wanggo's family are all like chinda but that doesn't mean they all serve the Fon. Since the Fon came out of here he cannot give another daughter to the Fon but could give one, say, to the Fon's Father's Brother's Son (? FBSS). He has paid 'dowry' so he will get 'dowry' for any woman pikin (i.e. paid for their mothers).

When the ground was given to Waa Ba he had to give 4 goats, wine and food to Tamfo (i.e. Nggong-Mata) so that all could eat. This is his ground.

Yes, all the ground belongs to the bitek. The bitek will only report to the Fon if a man from another country wanted land. A Bum man would be given land but cannot, of course, dispose of it to another. Gift of land is not renewed but the grantee would help the bitek. All compound heads are expected to help him. (Says abitek are like royals, i.e. can expect help and gifts.)


Yes, Wamancho (the bard) is a title for princes, a title of the langa house. The man's born name was Kiyom (or Kiyong).

Yes, princes can build anywhere except in an 'uncle compound' (MF/MB). If they go there they would "make trouble". There is no prince (i.e. an eligible) in Fonfuka. There is one at Mbuk called Yunji, he is addressed as - a term of honour - but has no real title.

At first, wives were given freely to the Fon. Now the Fon has to pay 'dowry', so naturally he wants it for his daughters. If a man failed to pay it for a princess, the Fon would summon him to court. But it would be Ful who took out the summons. In fact, no 'dowry' was paid on the Fon's mother.

In the case of divorce, even though "woman has born pikin" all 'dowry' is refunded. Even if a woman leaves her husband through ill-treatment, the man will "keep dowry and pikin".

Yes, Kwangga also toured the country and was accessible. But, says Waa Ba, "when he is inside the fence it is difficult for a man to see him". If a prince has a palaver with a commoner, it is difficult for the latter to complain to the Fon. Kwangga in old age was carried in a litter.

Yes, sanctuary could be given by the Fon, if a man escaped Kwi'fon and ran to him. And if a man rang to a yaa she might intercede for him and beg for pity in the case of a death sentence or if she thought injustice had been done.

Yes, abitek could drive 'evil-doers' (i.e. witches, doers of abominations) out of the area.

The title nji given to a man means he is like a 'sub-chief' and can have carvings and special things. If a man gets the title of tamfu' in a mfu' house, he has to give goats for it. There used to be a mfu' house in Fonfuka.

The mfoghoem - he says the term means 'near the Fon', so it is perhaps mfogham - was by name Wanchi, and came out of the 'town' of Na Wen, Fon Tam's mother. It is a quarter near here. Wanchi was a coe, a commoner, and Kwangga gave him a title.


Nji Foba was the title of Ndifon's father, at Lagabum. He divided the mimbo in the njong house in mfu'.

No, there is no division between gham and ba' in mfu'.

Fonfuka gave up mfu' long ago. It still has njong, but the house fell down last year. The mfoghoem died and they have not made another. The bitek would choose him with the help of members. Yes, when Wanchi died they did not put another mfoghoem, nor a nggwang. The latter is not invariably a prince - the last one in Fonfuka was not.

Chenzi at Jinjua is of the same (his) family, also Fukun at Nggunakimbi and "a person called Chefon". Waa Ba is senior to them. The gravestones remain at Nggunakimbi. When he makes a sacrifice he pours wine at his doorway, calls his 'father's names' - he "make it join here".

(We go down to Yangsi's where the quarter arbitration moot is sitting.)

The arbitrators are usually Yangsi, James Lungabe, a commoner, and (?) Bande-Tanga-Shaka, coe, commoner. Ndifon is also here, 'because he knows sense'. There are many people sitting around. They can ask questions. They deal with cases of non-payment for goods, marriage palavers, minor assault - not land cases. This court is for Fonfuka - each quarter has its own. It is held in front of Yangsi's own house. The judges sit under a tree. If a man refuses to pay the fine exacted he is taken to Court. Today the aged Nû is sitting here in place of Yangsi who is at the Court - with the Fon, Njito', Fon Sawe, Nji Kimbi of Su-Bum, and Nanambang. Bande is here because he 'has sense and is a Clan Council member' (says Waa Ba).

Yangsi used to collect the taxes, but he had too much work, so he made Waa Ba tax-collector. (NB: that Waa Ba is married to Peter Banga's own sister.)


Bande says he is a 'farmer'. He grows groundnuts and plantains for the market, and makes mats for sale. If the case is difficult they would ask bystanders for views. All are men. Women would not be present unless involved.

The tree is in the centre of the courtyard. The litigants are on stones opposite the Judges, about 6 feet away. Men are sitting on the foundations of houses around the courtyard.

[While Phyllis is organizing packing up and our accounts, I talk to Emmanuel.]

He addresses his FB's as baba, and refers to M.Br as lumninòm, Mo.Fa. as benom, daughter's husband as lum-a-wan, and sister's husband as lum-a-jamte-mi. (All these terms need checking.)

The Fon's wine-tappers are in the charge of a prince, not a chinda.

When Babe goes out he will return to his own compound with a wife from the palace - a 'servant', not a princess. He does not get a special title on retirement. Chindas coming out of the palace may get work about the palace or as overseers at Saf. Ex- chindas drink in Kwi'fon house. When a big man of his family dies an ex-chinda is very active in preparing and checking the feasts for Kwi'fon.

(Noticing our sang-a-langa hanging up he said any unauthorized person having one would be tried - it is a grave offence, and the Fon would call in his abebin to try it.)

Abebin will settle cases locally - difficult cases go to the Fon or Native Court. In trouble between big men, Njito' or another such big man will intervene to make peace.

Asked if there was anything like atardzoe' in Bum, he says reporting on local events and strangers is the duty of all abitek. Nji Kimbi of Su-Bum, since nearest to the Ring Road, is especially important for strangers.


When the Fon wants houses thatched he sends to abitek who bring people. The Fon will feed them and give them wine and, if pleased, kill a goat for them. There is no drum signal. Messages are sent through chindas.

Ordinary compound-heads will be buried near the 'door' or in a special place near the 'upper house' of a compound. It is not called fum - that is for royals. The special place was kept swept, the stones rubbed with camwood, and chicken feathers stuck on with blood at sacrifices.

If there is a cry-die for any member sons-in-law must come, and also any 'brothers' who have 'gone far' and live in other compounds, as far as is known, say descendants of grandfather's brothers. One must go to cry-dies at mother's, i.e. mother's father's compound. It is not essential to go to mother's mother's, but one may go "far back" with one's mother. When going to a mother's side cry-die you will take a fowl, remove feathers at the door of the compound, and then hand it over. There will be sickness in your own compound if you don't go to your mother's father's compound with a fowl.

Nkol talk is almost the same as the talk of Ngong, Mbuk, Faat (Mfat) and Fiyo.

Princes who settle out must go regularly to drink at the palace.

At this point Peter Banga reappeared looking very angry. Apparently the moot, after we had left, had said he had failed to work on the bridge (it has been fining defaulters from community work). They said he had appeared once at the bridge, said nothing, and gone away. Phyllis had been paying him for being lazy - a pound even £2. He said he had received nothing. They accused him of lying and said he must pay a fine of 5/- for absenting himself from work.


Phyllis went back with him and Emmanuel, and here is her account:

"I was told to greet the moot, which I did, I then plunged into an explanation of what Peter had been doing. The Fon had given us help in Lagabum, and had said we were to have help here. I thought this was known. If I should have reported to the 'Council' I was sorry I had failed to do so. I would know better next time. Peter then said he wanted to speak and was told to be quiet. He insisted on being heard. There was an uproar and he was told to shut up. The President then said that what was at issue was whether I had paid Peter. I denied it. Then they said that this was not the point. He should have asked permission to absent himself - he had not, and he must pay a fine. He said he wouldn't. I then said I was doing work for the community and Peter was helping me. They replied I should have asked for the use of his time, and permission for his absence. I again apologized. Then they said I must pay a fine in wine. I was suddenly angry and said I would not and they could keep their history and strode away, leaving Peter and an uproar behind.

After I got back I thought it expedient to send up 5/- by Alfred (EMC's cook steward from Nggulu) saying it was for wine, since I wanted no palaver with these people. He returned with the message that Peter himself must pay the fine. So I sent it to Peter himself. Peter then came and said he had been ordered not to take money from me. He must pay the fine himself. When Yangsi came down from Lagabum Peter said he would pay it. There was a sudden downpour of rain which quenched the shouting. (We decide to give Peter our small travelling clock as a recompense.)

The moot or 'Council' as they called it, was certainly a democratic body, not in the least impressed by 'work for the Fon' and the Fon's interest in "history". The point really was that Peter had failed to ask permission to absent himself, and had been a 'stronghead'.

Peter says Yangsi will agree with the decision. If he didn't he would find it impossible to get people in other families to pay fines - i.e. if his own family seemed to be favoured."


[This seemed to be an 'area council' of the last Local Government phase. See Nso' files.]

Emmanuel again:
Yes, women do most of the farming, except the heavy clearing. However men sometimes made clearings in the forest and planted some maize and 'old' groundnuts, to claim land. They also do the fencing. Women sell some corn, groundnuts and corn-beer, but are expected to give money to their husbands who use it to buy them clothes, etc. Women have working bees for planting a large farm, and for this work the husband would provide food and drink.

Yes, women also have janggi - husbands would let them have the money for this.

They have a 'bank' in Fonfuka. Men put in money each moon. They can draw out £1 and most repay in one month at 1/8d (20p) interest. If they take out £2 they have two months to repay. If they draw out as much as £10 and repay it in five months they are still charged the fixed rate of interest. In a janggi interest is also 2d per shilling, so if a person 'cooks janggi', he is then paid interest on what he has earlier paid in.

(Omer Sitan, listening to this, says they do not have this in Nso', and that the rate of interest here is high. Evidently money is scarce and there are few opportunities for earning it here now.)

At the market a bundle of reeds for one mat costs 1/3d. A mat takes two days to make and costs 3/- for an ordinary one, 3/6-4 shillings for a fine one. Little is sold in the market except oil from Nchanti at 25-28 shillings for 4 gallons; some groundnuts, kola (2 for 1d), garden eggs, avocado pears, pineapples, cassava, some corn-cobs, corn-beer, strong tobacco (kwandàng), guinea-corn grain, 4d a dash.


(After the rain ceased we went up to see Ndifon Bala/Ndi Foba and say goodbye.)

Ndifon's is a large compound at the top of a rise - about 12 houses. He has a new mudbrick house with thatch, very long, and built on high foundations. He showed the gravestone of his elder brother who preceded him as Ndifon - a stone about 15" high set in a projecting foundation, dark red from being rubbed with camwood. In front of another house was a large concrete slab - c. 6 x 4 ft - at one end a camwooded round stone set over the head of his father, Kumbi-Yuendong, also holder of title, and son of Tam. (EMC - can there have been more than one Yuendong?) Ndifon Bala's mother, also mother of his predecessor, was from Koshin.

Ndifon says that before he succeeded he was living near Nchanti where he has farms, and where pikin, and wives with children still are. He went there because food is scarce here. The land belongs to Bum - is on the Bum side of the boundary. They could not come back for the same reason - "chop not good" here.

When in his early 20s, he went to Kimbo and Nkol, bought kolas and traded them here, dealing with Hausa from Takum. He has also travelled to Makurdi and Jos - he has been about a good deal.

Today he was supervising work at the bridge - 'quarters' take it in turns to do a day's labour.

(EMC has collected some praise-names of the Fon, as follows:)

"person who covers world" (cp. Bafut)
nyam song amò
"elephant with one tusk"
kar fu so lefu
"a tree with thorns"
bikam a nggun
lion in the bush
bala baghana
"red leopard"
fi li njongge
yun tuma tu
"friend to every nation"
bu ká mbite fòn
"the first fon to be made"
kuinsi ndoem
yui bànene
the sun shines
nyam atu atang
"powerful animal on the hills"
"boa in the river"
nya ghe tshioe
"heaven and earth"
"god of Bum" - a Mbirribo word

Inverted commas are the Fon's glosses, the others mostly Ndifon's.

NB: also that Kwi'fon' police' - those hooded - include nekang, and a masker corresponding to mabu called Kwa'la. Emmanuel told EMC again that the 'dowry' received by the Fon was often spent on good gowns for his big men and chindas (cp. Kom).]

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