E. M. Chilver



Sally and the Fon of Bum


The old kingdom of Bum is situated in the re-named Menchum Division of the North-West Province of the Cameroon Republic, immediately to the north of Kom or Bikom. When we visited it, before and after the plebiscite and independence, the division was still called Wum, the name of the small town in which the former British Divisional headquarters had been established. This division had been part of a short-lived province called Bamenda, a divisional name inherited from the earlier and larger German Bezirk, which had had its headquarters in this location between 1902 and 1915.

This scrapbook of notes about Bum, the Great Bafum or Bafumbum of earlier travellers, has been compiled in my old age by way of thanks for the unforgettable hospitality and patient kindness of H.H. the Fon of Bum, John Yai, his principal councillors, especially Ndifoba, Ful Mwancum and Njito', the royal ladies, the chiefs of Sawe, Saf and Munggong, the Quarterhead of Fonfuka, Waa Ba, and many others whose names will be found within, among them those of Mr Daniel Bang, Pastor Dom, Mr Peter Banga Lengga of Fonfuka, and his 'brother' Emmanuel.

It is, to be sure, bound to be full of the laughable errors made by foreigners briefly visiting a country without prior knowledge of its language. Our attempts to transcribe local terms will be among them. So it is no great loss that our attempts at phonetic transcription are not reproduced here. But, in Parts II and IV, c may represent ch, ng represents the long-tailed n at the end of the English word sing, oe is the e of stern, and ' is a glottal stop. The compiler's interventions are within square brackets. Such as it is it will have done its duty if it persuades others to write a proper account of this historically important Grassfields kingdom. A brief sketch of it is included in Traditional Bamenda, Buea, 1968, 86-88.

Thanks are due also to the British Library of Political and Economic Science for permission to make use of the late Dr Phyllis Kaberry's fieldnotes which must not be quoted without their permission, to the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, for permission to produce some of the photographs deposited there, and to Dr Gilbert Schneider and Evan Schneider for so kindly digitizing some for reproduction in a separate supplement of this, in course of preparation. And, finally, to Mrs Mary Aldworth, for her skill and patience in deciphering my untidy notes.

E. M. Chilver
47 Kingston Road
Oxford OX2 6RH

For further information contact Ian Fowler