The Mambila tribe is of Jukon origin and formerly came from Takum and Wukari in the Muri Province. They migrated to Banyo and established themselves in the surrounding country. About ninety to a hundred years ago, it is difficult to fix the time exactly, Sambo, the Fulani Chief of Banyo and father of the present District Head of Gashaka, started to raid them for slaves. They were a good fighting tribe and it is said that Sambo had to use a very large force against them. The tribe was never actually conquered and, like their neighbours the Kakas, have remained independent to this day although, in name, they follow the District Head of Gashaka.

Sambo drove the Mambilas back and they took to the high hills west of Banyo where they are at present. Once in the hills they made preparations for the withstanding of future attacks from the Fulani.

The methods for withstanding attacks that the Mambila employed are of interest (and compare very favourably with modern methods). A large parapet was erected facing the enemy and behind which ample protection could be obtained. These parapets were built round each village and remnants of them still exist at Tamyar, Kuma, and Wakude, while a well-preserved fort still exists at Tong in the Tikar country. It is said, I do not know with what truth, that Herr Shirtisau used this fort to great advantage when making his escape during the recent world war, while he was in danger from the Allied troops from Banyo.

In addition to the defences related in the preceding paragraph traps in the nature of deep wells with spikes and spear heads at the bottom were sunk in all suitable places. These wells were about fifty to sixty feet deep and they still exist, for game purposes now that the dangers of Fulani raids are over, and are, I am told, very effective. Camouflage was also not unknown to the Mambila. These wells or traps were skillfully covered with grass and dried leaves and until one is actually on them they are extremely difficult to detect. The Fulani and the pagans, even to this day, relate what an advantage and serious obstacle they proved in warfare. Usumanu, who raided the Mambila after Sambo, suffered very heavy losses before he finally penetrated the Mambila country proper due entirely to these well thought out defences.

I shall now endeavour to trace the history of the Mambila tribe after they were driven back to the mountains. It appears that the tribe split up into four distinct groups and established themselves at Kuma, Titon, Kabri, and Tamyar. They occupy the mountainous country west of Banyo and south-west of Gashaka, an area of about 2,000 sq. miles.


The Kuma group, who call themselves 'people of Tarobi', were formed by TASEDEM, who is commonly supposed to have dropped out of the sky with his wife and to have established himself in the large mass of black trees to the east of Kuma. During the first Fulani raids he fled with his family to the high mountain west of Kuma where he died leaving his son TAJEWAN to succeed him. TAJEWAN's rule was of short duration and although not actually being captured by the Fulani he died just in time to prevent it leaving his son TADEM to carry on. TADEM was captured and put to death by the Fulani and TAJEWAN's second son UPSO became head and rules the group to this day.

UPSO moved from Karmattan, the place to which TASEDEM fled and established the village of Kuma. The juju of the group, NAMA, an invisible spirit, was left at Karmattan where he dwells at present.


The Titon group was established by a man called BIEGING TITON and he is supposed to have arrived in much the same way as TASEDEM of the Kuma group. In not a single instance could I get anyone to admit that there was any connection between the two groups. Having sprung out of the sky with his wife BURE, BIEGING TITON settled at Birre, a hill south-west of Titon and subsequently moved to Loa (the present name of this village is Titon). The succession from then onwards is shown as follows:

Bajugine Bagoge
Yakoro Ju Wararwa Titon
Tuni Cabana Wanbon
(dead) (present head) (dead)

Wararwa fought against Yerima Yiagi of Banyo and was killed, Titon, his brother, immediately went to Banyo and paid homage to the Fulani who to reward him made him head. The pagans despised him for this act and he had great difficulty in keeping control.

The invisible juju of this group is named 'BENEKERGO' and dwells at Loa.


The Kabri group was established at KOR, a hill south-east of the present village of Kabri, by a man called MADOM and his wife TIENGI. The original name of the village of Kabri was DENG and the name of KABRI was given to it after the extremely heavy fighting with the Fulani. (Kabari in Fulani and Hausa means grave.) MADOM had one son named KWOI who succeeded him and led the people against Usumanu. KWOI's son WEIL, who became head after his father's death, earned a reputation as a great fighter. He was, however, captured by the Fulani and taken to Banyo as a prisoner where he remained until his removal to Yola as a slave.

For four years after WEIL'S capture there was no head of this group. DOK, WEIL'S son, was then made head and at his death BAJO, his son, was elected and remains head at present.M

LENG is the invisible juju of this group and lives in the head's compound at Kabri.


The Tamyar group was formed by WONI who came from KOR with his wife and settled at Yiton, a large hill east of Tamyar. GADON, his son and successor, is also spoken of by the Fulani as an extremely brave man. He met his death fighting against Usumanu's troops. The succession after GADON'S death was from father to son in the following order. KONGAN, NADUA, BADONG, and the present head, TAMYAR. The head of this group today lives at KITAR, now called TAMYAR after the name of the present head. The old site at Yiton was considered unlucky after the death of BADONG the father of TAMYAR.

The invisible juju of this group lives at KIMISSO, a large pool of very clear water just east of Tamyar. The water is fenced round and jealously guarded. Anyone who is rash enough to approach it is supposed instantly to die.

Mbamga Mbar Tep Wa Gembu ??Kamkam etc.?? not visited.


The following information obtained by me is as nearly as possible in accordance with the questionnaire contained in the Secretary's Circular No. 40/86P/1921 dated at KADUNA on 9th April 1921 and should prove interesting and perhaps useful. I was unable to obtain a complete set of the numerals as asked for. None of the pagans with whom I came in touch was able to tell me them. The average man only counts up to ten and from then onwards in tens represented by small bundles of stick or straw. One man was able to count up to seventeen and these I give. I shall endeavour to complete the remainder at a future visit.

The Houses are made of mud with grass roofs and are conical in shape.

Village heads and anyone who is particularly liked in a village is buried in their own compound. Others are taken and buried anywhere in the bush outside the village. The graves are made tunnelled shaped and in the Mambila language are called 'SAN'. The body is buried lying on the left side with the head resting on the left hand and the right hand pointing upwards. The grave is closed by putting sticks across the entrance to form an air space and then sealed up with mud.

Nothing is put in the grave with the body. The body is buried naked and nothing is used to mummify it. Excision in the case of girls was not practised. Every male member of the tribe must be circumcised. The operation may be performed by anyone who knows how to perform it. The name given to the operator is 'Brembede'. No ceremony of any kind is attached to the operation. The parents usually pay a small fee, generally in kind. If a boy, through fear or for any other reason, is not circumcised he is not permitted to marry in the tribe. No female will allow an uncircumcised male to cohabit with her. The name given to the penis when cut is 'KOMBOIYEMBEM'.

The only secret society that I was able to trace was one that they called the 'NAMAB'. This is a society of the Elders and no young men are allowed to join it. Everyone hopes to become a member in time but before doing so certain things have to be learnt. I could not get anyone to divulge the nature of the things that had to be learnt.

The tribe was cannibalistic but stopped it on the advent of the White Man. I am of the opinion that cannibalism goes on even now but only among the more remote and more primitive villages of the tribe. The upper part of the skull was carefully preserved and used as a drinking cup. These cups were very much prized and were called 'WUNI'. Human sacrifice was made to the big Juju N'Gupso. The victim was generally a very old man who was just about to die, or a very young boy. Girls were not allowed to be used as they were insulting to the juju. The victim in some cases was a dog. In no case was the victim taken from out of the village where the ceremony was to take place but from out of an adjoining village.

The tribal religion was and is 'Nature' worship. A sack filled with grass seed is placed at the house of the Juju. No one is permitted to know where this sack is placed and the place of the Juju is kept a secret. The sack is taken to the Juju by a special High Priest called 'NOSOKWOIA'. If the High Priest is likely to die he confides the secret of the hiding place to his son who is immediately appointed High Priest on the death of his father.

Although as explained under the separate groups that each group has its own juju it would appear that there is a juju called N'GUPSO common to the tribe as a whole. N'GUPSO is commonly supposed to be a spirit who lives in the wind. Offerings are made to him at any place and at three big festivals in the year.

  1. When the crops have been planted.
  2. When they are about a foot high.
  3. When they have been gathered in and stored.

The usual drinking takes place at these times.

Formerly the whole tribe went naked. The older men wore a piece of skin cut square and just sufficient to hide or to some extent cover the penis. This they called a 'BARNDA'. Today the men wear the ordinary imported loin cloth but the women still go naked.

No ornaments of any kind were worn on the head. Rings and bracelets of red boneware worn and comparatively lately necklaces. The teeth were never touched. The tribe have never used bows and arrows. Spears and a small knife, called a 'BAN' were their weapons, both offensive and defensive. In addition to these weapons the Mambila carried a small square-shaped shield, called a 'KUM KUM'. This shield is made of stout but light bamboo poles tied tightly together and covered with thick grass matting. The shield is only carried when war is expected.

All pots are made of mud and by hand.

The men carry their loads on the head but the women in a large basket, made by themselves, slung across the shoulder. This basket is called a 'SANG'. There are no sacred groves or trees, only the ground in the immediate vicinity of the house of the Juju is guarded and no one may approach it.

The mother of a family is looked upon as the sole head of that family and the father has little or no authority. Anything done by the mother is accepted without question by the entire family.

Marriage is by purchase. There seems to be no limit to the amount paid. In most cases the purchase money or dowry consists of simple presents such as chickens, goats, hoes and cutlasses. The bridegroom elect generally adds to his dowry by working for his prospective parents-in-law. Everything must be returned if the bride leaves the husband but in the event of the husband leaving the dowry is forfeited.

Tsaranchi is not indulged in.

Farming Work on the farms is done by both the men and the women.

Twins are considered very lucky.

An elder or infirm chief was not put to death but allowed to die of old age.

There was no central authority and each group remained independent.

Musical Instruments were mostly imported from Banyo.


1 Nuno 10 Uta
2 Wa 11 Utata nuno
3 Ta 12 Uteta wa
4 Na 13 Utete ta
5 Te 14 Utete na
6 Tina 15 Utete te
7 Tetchine 16 Utete tina
8 Tindania 17 Utete tetchine
9 Tina

I could not find anyone who could give me the days of the week.

3 I, Mi. We, Bir
Thou (m & f) We. You, Bi.
He or She, Bo They, Bo.
4 Who ? Hami ? What ? Damache ?
5 Someone Nodi Anyone Kwani Beriwache.
6 This man Tira euwe. These men Tirade euwe.
That woman, Mamvunuache. Those women, Munvunudesana
7 My brother, Angadim My brothers, Nebingeri Angadim
Your sister, Damsina munvune. Your sisters, Angambe darra.
His horse, Anga dang. His horses, Bingeri dangsina.
8 I go, Mi wuriyogum We go, Bar wuriyegum
Thou goest We wuriyegum. You go Bi wuriyegum.
He goes, O wuriyegum. They go, Bo wuriyegum.
9 The man's horse, Dang tira The town of the chief, Mugun china.
10 He is a strong man, Tira gatche taurum. She is a strong woman, Mumvuno gatche taurum.
11 Man Tira. Woman Mumvuno.
Husband Angusi. Wife Angavren
Father Angako. Mother Baba.
Brother Angadim. Sister Dominvune.
Father's brother Tamtam Mother's brother Mama. ##32
Boy, (small baby) Wurnebubu Girl Wurnovuno.
Horse Dang. Mare Dangvuno.
Ox, Nyammatara Cow Nyamma.
12 Chief Notunwiyino Chiefs Notungum
Tree N'Giwau Trees N'Giwauchanade
Boy Wurnobugutara Boys Wurnobuguberde
House Gorcol Houses Gorsananade
Chicken Tsundo Chickens Tsundode
Man Tira Men Tirade
Horse Dang Horses Dangchanade
Slave Tormo Slaves Tormochanade
Snake Niyamba Snakes Niyambade
Grandfather Tamtam Grandfathers ------
Dog Yiambi Dogs Bode.

In the following list some words are not expressed in the Mambila language and these have been left blank, the reason that these things are not expressed is, of course, obvious.

Aburu, Tsariae Good Girnade pig Nyangan
Bad Biri Gown Shurisoina Pigeon Takol
Banana Gomon Grass N'gre Pot Chane
Bee Buyi Groundnut Enenem Priest Bundanamava
Beer Deman Guinea corn Yire Rain Nu
Big Gite Guinea fowl Nungi Red Yungunam
Black Yieri Hair Sari Religion ---
Blood Homo Hand Bo River Komo. ##33
Breast K'Ban Head Wuni Road Chindi
Headman Norwunia Sand Maudi Hausa Kasakat.
Body Kumun Hippo, ---- Salt, Tomo
Bush cow, Nyamawara Hoe, Kama Sheep, Tambini
Butter, Kurme Hyena, Tameni Shield, Kam Kam
Camel, ---- Kanuri, ---- Silk cotton tree, ----
Canoe, ---- Iron, Tungwe Silver, ----
Cassava, ---- Koronofa, ---- Slave, Tormo.
Cattle, Nagub Leopard, ---- Sleep, Chanyum.
Crocodile, ---- Lion, ---- Sky, Tebra
Day, Sigatin Little, Bu Smoke, Ju.
Dream, Mukuribu Maize, Tab Spear, Gongon
Donkey, ---- Millet, ---- Stars, ----
Dry Season, Numa Milk, ---- Stones, Tan
Ear, Tia Monkey bread tree,--- Sun, Muwande
Earth, Tambarab Moon, Wuru Tamarind tree, ----
Egg, Gen Month, Wuru Tamba, ----
Elephant, ---- Muslim, ---- Thief, Noiyeb
Eve, N'geren Name, ---- Throwing stick, ----
Farm, Bugol Night, Shinbin Throwing knife, ----
Filani, Tabirib No, Mike Tobacco, Tabak
Fire, Wu Nose, Niyon Tooth, Niyen
Ghost, ---- Nape, Tongo Twins, Nombiri
Giraffe, ---- Oil Palm, Kurme Village, Bene
Goat, M'Bien Old, Notungwi Water, Nimen
God, ---- Penis Sheath, Barnda War, Kawan
Well, Lungwe Yam, Tuwa To know, Kerem
Wet Season, Saraten To eat, Nwam To love, Yerhonon
White, Shuri To sell, Gurim To weave, ----
Witch, Nodereb To buy, Gurigam
TOANGO Asst. District Officer
May 31st, 1923 i/c South Cameroons Area (Yola).