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Nso and Its Neighbours. Readings in the Social History of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon

Readings in the Social History of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon

B Chem-Langhee, V.G. Fanso

Publication Year: 2011

This is a rich and compelling volume of readings in social history on Nsoí and its neighbours in the Western Grassfields of Cameroon. It consists of 19 essays by some of the leading historians, archeologists and ethnographers of the region, with seminal contributions by Jean-Pierre Warnier, Paul Nchoji Nkwi, Bongfen Chem-Langhee, Phyllis Kaberry, E.M Chilver, Miriam Goheen, Ian Flower, Dan Lantum and V.G. Fanso. The book covers a broad range of themes from precolonial times to date, including trade, alliances, diplomacy, the iron industry, colonial impact, continuities, discontinuities and compromise, general persistence, ideology and conflict. Warnier draws on linguistic and archaeological data to argue that this region has been settled for several millennia, very probably continuously, and that its landscapes are very ancient and have resulted from many human and natural forces other than the simple clearance of the forest cover of the region at an uncertain date as some authors have postulated. Using data on inter-group diplomacy and alliances, Nkwi puts into question some problematic theses on persistence hostilities and enhances knowledge of the precolonial history of the region. Fowler and Chem-Langhee show how local conditions and needs fostered the spirit and practice of cooperative ventures in the precolonial period, which provided the driving force and the ideological and structural underpinnings for the successful and smooth introduction of modern modes of cooperation in the area during the colonial and postcolonial periods. The rest of the studies have a unifying theme or thesis, namely, that despite the entry and assault of external, influences, particularly those associated with colonialism, Christianity and Islam, the traditional institutions, customs and value systems of the Nsoí and their neighbours have resisted major change and their total corrosion is not yet in sight. The volume illustrates the proposition that historical research is a continuous process of rediscovery which provides new questions, and also that the evidence of other disciplines ñ linguistics, archaeology and palaeobotany for example ñ may give rise to many new lines of inquiry and help to correct the documentary record and explain oral tradition. Herein lies the most important element of this experimental collection. Its editors hope that it will provoke other similar collections.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title page

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Copyright page

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Dedication

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His Royal Majesty Sam Mbinglo I Fon Nso 1995

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Preface

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pp. vii-

Phyllis was born in California of English parents. The surname (pronounced Kay-berry) is common in Yorkshire. Her father, an architect, took his family to Australia, where Phyllis was educated and grew up with ‘her brothers. She went to the...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xviii

Regional studies provide us with a wider view and make for a better understanding of the forces that help shape the development of areal and ethnic phenomena and histories. They bring into focus the forces that produce conflict or cooperation among...

Section I - The Regional Background

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1. The History Of The Peopling Of Western Cameroon And The Genesis Of Its Landscapes

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pp. 3-22

Not so long ago the generally accepted opinion, summarized by Ghomsi, was that the high plateaux or Grassfields of Western Cameroon had been peopled, in succession, by a very ancient stock whose presence was evidenced by archaeological finds, then...

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2. Traditional Diplomacy, Trade and Warfare in the Nineteenth-Century Western Grassfields

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pp. 23-47

In 1889 Dr Eugen Zintgraff, the first European to visit the Western Grassfields, was arrested by Kom warriors as he crossed the Kom country. In his book Nord-Kamerun (1895), he recounts how his party was suddenly surrounded by warriors who were...

Section II - Precolonial Studies

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3. The Oku Iron Industry In Its Regional Setting: A Descriptive Account

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pp. 51-87

Eugen Zintgraff, the first European to reach the prosperous Ndop Plain chiefdom of Babungo, in 1889, noted that it was a major cell of iron production with a widespread reputation for its products for peaceable dealings with strangers...

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4. Tradztzonal Modes Of Cooperatzon Zn Nso’: A Brief Description

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pp. 89-97

The idea and practice of cooperation among individuals for the purpose of improving their economic and social wellbeing is an old one in Nso’. Historically, it has taken several forms which, although changed and transformed somewhat by colonial and...

Section III - The Colonial Impact

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5. The Bafut And The Germans, 1889-1907

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pp. 101-118

The effective establishment of European colonial rule in Africa from the last quarter of the nineteenth to the first decade of the twentieth century took place in two phases. The first one was the scramble and partition of parts of the continent among the European countries...

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6. Nso’ And The Germans: The First Encounters In Contemporary Documents And In Oral Tradition

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pp. 119-151

In 1958, 1960 and 1963 the late Dr Kaberry, accompanied for some time by Mrs Chilver, collected some information from elderly men, who had been witnesses of the events concerning the first encounters between Nso’ and the Germans. Her notes are deposited at the...

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7. Native Administration In The West Central Cameroons 1902-1954

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pp. 153-203

This is an account of the work of European political officers, viewed through their spectacles, in a small part of west Central Africa between 1902, when a German imperial military station was built in Bamenda, and 1954, when the Southern Cameroons obtained its first...

Section IV - Continuity And Compromise At The Grassroots

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8. A Girl Growing Up In Nso’: 1940-1943

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pp. 207-219

After Christmas in 1940, my mother said that I should get a small plot at the Mission and learn farming. Before this I used to go to farm with her but she said that she did not like my method of farming. I had not learnt the correct way. She gave me a fairly big plot near...

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9. Land And Cultivation Rights In Nso’ In The Nineteen Forties

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pp. 221-243

After the Fon had conquered Ngkar, Ndzerem, and the villages in the northwest and west, he became the overlord of all Nso’ territory; those of his people who, until that time, had enjoyed considerable independence were left in possession of their land but held it subject...

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10. Nuptiality In The Jakiri District Of Cameroon

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pp. 245-276

One of the five principal variables of demographic change is nuptiality. It is difficult to study this variable because, by its nature, it is influenced by several socio-cultural sub-variables many of which are diffuse and interrelated, and cannot lend themselves easily to...

Section V - Continuities At The Palace

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11. The Fon’s Wives In Nso’

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pp. 279-288

The Fon of Nso’ has many wives. In 1913, Father Emonts found that the Fon then, Ngga’ Bi’fon, had slightly over 300 wives and female dependents; Mbingkar Mbinglo (Sam III) had about 100. But the present Fon at the time of my survey had 89 wives. One reason for...

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12. Nto’ Nso’ And Its Occopants: Privileged Access And Internal Organisation In The Old And New Palaces

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pp. 289-334

Nso’ and the fraternal chiefdoms of Oku and Mbiame now form the Bui Division of the North-West Province of Cameroon, which had a population of some 142,000 in 1976 and an area roughly corresponding to that of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. The earliest...

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13. The Transfer Of Power And Authority In Nto’ Nso’

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pp. 335-361

This paper deals with the transfer of power and authority from one team of leaders to another in nto’ Nso’ or Nso’ palace. Specifically, it discusses the position of the Fon, supreme ruler or king, of Nso’ in the society, his death and burial, the selection and installation...

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14. The Transfer Of Power And Authority In Nto’ngkar

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pp. 363-385

The Ngkar chiefdom is an integral part of a much larger polity, the Nso’ fondom or kingdom, which today claims to comprise the administrative Bui Division of Cameroon. The other chiefdoms include: the closely allied autonomous chiefdom of Oku with...

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15. The Ideology And Political Economy Of Gender: Women And Land In Nso’

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pp. 387-404

These are trying times in Cameroon as in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Per capita incomes throughout the subcontinent have fallen continuously during the 1980s while prices have increased dramatically. Economic performance and living standards are now significantly...

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16. The Nso’ Area Cooperative Union

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pp. 405-425

In 1978, the members of the Nso’ Area cooperative union (NACU) expressed general dissatisfaction with the management and financial problems of their Union. The next year, the Nso’ students blamed their parents’ difficulties in financing their education...

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17. Nso’ Traditional Medical And Mortuary Concepts And Practices: A Description

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pp. 427-441

Traditional medicine is defined or used in this paper to include all practices utilized by people to foresee and prevent or treat physical, social, mental or spiritual diseases and to rehabilitate afflicted people within their cultural environment. It prepares the individual to...

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18. Death, Afterlife And Funerary Rituals In Nso’: Practice And Belief In A Changing Society

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pp. 443-461

We must take account, too, of other influences from the rest of Cameroon, indeed from the rest of Africa which may have affected some areas of belief and practice. So is the task of identifying the particularly Nso’ component in them both hopeless...

Section VII - Ideology And Conflict

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19. Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs And Local Control: Negotiations Over Land, Struggles Over Meaning

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pp. 463-484

When I lived in the Nso’ chiefdom (more properly fondom or kingdom) in western Cameroon from 1979 to 1981, I spent quite a bit of time with one of the sub-chiefs, the Fon of Nse’. I became a regular visitor at his palace and spent many an afternoon drinking palm...

End Notes

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pp. 485-494

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956717347
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956717538

Page Count: 522
Publication Year: 2011