Mambila Artefacts


(a) General Mambila name ... SHOWA (or SUR or SOWI).
(b) Use. In connection with the central Mambila rite, which is a Fertility Cult. Also brought out at burials of important men.
The mask is worn on the head together with a full length robe of netting and cocks' feathers which covers the whole body.
Masks are still made by a large number of people and are not used until they have been 'consecrated'. This is done by killing a chicken and pouring a small amount of its blood onto the mask. Some breast feathers are stuck to the mask with the blood. The method of killing the chicken is to slit its mouth and allow it to bleed to death.
The main rites take place just before Guinea corn planting in June or early July. Each Hamlet or sub-unit in the village has one or more masks, which are the personal possession of the cult holder and usually inherited. WARWAR village for instance has 11 masks.
I cannot give a clear description of the actual rites. The holders seem to meet together at a centre point of the village and dance. They then go round the various hamlets. The central rite seems to be an offering of corn beer to an upright stone, followed by pouring some into the ground. More beer is then drunk.
The dancing is individual rather than group, and very violent. Each masks represents a different animal or natural force and the appropriate dance does seem to mimic these. .
Anyone may actually dance in the mask, and usually it is not the owner, who is too old. The masks may not be seen by the women. It is said that if a woman accidentally sees one she will get sick, unless a special medicine is made for which she will have to pay at least one chicken.
The dancing and beer drinking may go on for several days.

There are three masks:

  1. Type of mask MAPE (i.e. 'wind')
    Village of origin; TEP KWAR in Mambila District, Adamawa.
    Name of maker... now forgotten.
    Age: About 35 years.
  2. Type of Mask... BUR (i.e. Dog)
    Village of Origin... Mbamnga Village, Mambila District, Adamawa.
    Name of Maker.... GUMI (died about 1943)
    Age of mask.... about 12 years ?
    Cost: £1. Not in use when bought.
  3. . Type of Mask.... MAHIR (i.e. 'storm')
    Village of Origin.... Mbamnga
    Name of Maker.... GUMI
    Age of mask, about 11 years
    Cost: ...£1.


General Mambila name....TACHOP.
I understand that they have individual names, but was unable to find out what they are.
(b) Use... In connection with making medicine for sickness. They are consecrated in the same way as the Showa masks, and are kept in a special corn bin called TOWA, beneath which are 3 stones. The owner of the cult brings them out of the corn bin when the medicine is to be made, and places them on stones. They are covered with a net - a net is also used to cover the head and shoulders of the dead chief during burial rites.
The sick man brings a chicken, which is killed and the TACHOP figures are smeared with its blood. The sick man then closes his eyes. The medicine man opens his eyes for him, directing them towards the figures and says (words to the effect): "You see this; you have seen this; your sickness will now get better".
There are 5 small figures labelled B1-5. The two larger ones cost 5/- each, the smaller ones 2/- each. All came from Mbamnga Village in Mambila District, Adamawa, but I could obtain no reliable information about their age or the name of the maker. Similar figures are still being made. All have been recently in use. One still has traces of blood and feathers on it. The one wearing the loin cloth was so clothed when bought.


  1. STOOL. Kaka name... unknown.
    Use... The Chief's personal stool.
    Village of Origin... ANTERE village of Mambila District, Adamawa.
    Name of Maker.... Unknown.
    Age.... About 20 years ?
    Tribe... The MFUMTE branch of the KAKA people.
    Cost... 5/-.
  2. MAMBILA LONG DRUM Mambila name of drum: KWINJENG
    Use. This drum is used for a dance called KATI which is held in October, and occasionally for other dances. It is held between the knees when in use. The head is made of Antelope hide.
    Village of Origin... WARWAR village, Mambila District, Adamawa.
    Name of Maker... NGARI of NDIEL quarter.
    Age.... Unknown.
    Cost... 11/-/
  3. BILA ROUND DRUM Mambila name of drum... DANG.
    Use... This drum is used for all dances except Kati. The head is made of cow hide.
    Village of Origin... WARWAR
    Name of Maker... MBON of Warwar.
    Age... Unknown.
    Cost... 11/-.
  4. BATTLE Mambila name... BATI
    Use... In all dances. The seeds are only obtainable from French Territory near Fumban, and are called MBUM BATI.
    Village of Origin... WARWAR
    Name of Maker and Age... Unknown, but age not more than 4 years. Commonly made by the women.
    Cost... 2/6
  5. and 6 JUJU SUITS
    Mambila name... MBEN or Suwa Mben.
    Use... Costume for the young boys' dancing and play. It is said that this is the remnant of what was originally the central cult among the North Eastern section of the Mambila who are known as the TORBI or the 'Men Before' because they took the brunt of the Fulani invasion from Banyo. However when these people learnt of the SUWA cult from Warwar and the southern villages, they took it up and Mben gradually became what it is now - of no significance but simply a children's play dance. The women are still not allowed to see these suits.
    There is another cult called Suwa Ndang, also mainly a play dance, but use is made of the rite to discipline the children. The symbol of this is a long skin-tight black suit, embellished with tufts of cock's feathers, with the head covering elongated into a long peaked hood. When the main Suwa masks (also called DUWA) are brought out, the young men will don the NDANG suits and join the dance.
    Name of Maker and age... unknown, but the suits are still commonly made.
    Cost... 1/-.
  1. Three hoes. Mambila name... VUN.
    Use...§∑∑ Agriculture and marriage payments.
    Village of Origin... VOKKUDE
    Maker... Not known. Age... About 3 years, one older.
    Cost.... Fixed by the Native (Pagan) Court in marriage cases at 5/- each... 15/-.
  2. ONE ANTERE type hoe for comparison, of a type only used now by the KAKA (Mfumte) people to make marriage payments. Local name, age, etc., unknown.
  3. Baskets
    Mambila name.... SAK
    Use... By the women only for carrying loads, etc. The men carry loads on their heads.
    Village... Bought in Gembu, but they are made and sold in every Mambila village.
    Materials used... grass.
    Age... 1 year.
    Cost... 3/6 each... 7/-.
    Mambila name... CHIYEK. Usually reddened with ochre, in which case they are called CHIYEK NORI (= 'Banten al'ada').
    Locally made from Mambila grown cotton (VULLE).
    Cost 2/-
  5. PIPE
    Mambila name... TOLFALKBE
    Use... This is twin pipe which is apparently only to be used by a woman who has had twins.
    Age and Maker... Unknown. Village... MVEREP Hamlet of WARWAR village.
    Cost... 6/-.
  6. PIPE
    Mambila name... TOLTAMA
    Used ... by men and women.
    Village... WARWAR.
    Maker.... YANGCHIE
    Cost.... nil.
    Mambila name... LUMYARENE
    Cost... nil.

Masks...... £5 - 0 - 0
Spears..... 4 -13 - 0
Drums...... 1 - 2 - 0
Shields.... 1 - 7 - 0
Swords..... 0 -14 - 0
Figures.... 0 -16 - 0
Hoes....... 1 - 0 - 0
Baskets.... 0 - 7 - 0
Rattle..... 0 - 2 - 6
Juju suits. 0 - 2 - 0
Pipes...... 0 - 6 - 0
Stool...... 0 - 5 - 0
Total...... £15 -14 - 6