Dr. P.M. Kaberry and Mrs. E.M. Chilver.


The following pages have been compiled from notes taken in two days in May, 1960, from Chief John Nfowanko, Nfonansi II of Ntem in the Nkambe Division of the former Southern Cameroons Trust Territory and from his Monku and councillors; from information contained in a letter from the late Chief Nfowanko to the District Officer in 1935, and comments by the present Chief, his Monku and councillors in reply to written questions addressed to him by Dr. P.M. Kaberry and Mrs. E.M. Chilver.

Phonetic or consistent transcription of names, title and terms has not been possible: but ng represents n. gh Y and ö a range of neutral vowels.

The forms of expression used by Chief John and his councillors have been closely followed. Corrections and additions will be gratefully received by us and can be sent to Dr. P.M. Kaberry, Department of Anthropology, University College, Gower Street, London, W.C.1.


August, 1961.

Note to the electronic edition 1996.
The above note was written when Phylis Kaberry was still alive, and was printed and circulated proviately. It has been made available now to increase its accessibility to those interested in the subject. Corections and additions will be forwarded to Mrs Chilver and may be incorporated into the final section of this document. Comments should be sent to: Dr David Zeitlyn,
Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing,
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology,
Eliot College,
The University of Kent,
EMail: EMail David Zeitlyn


Kimi came out of Bornu to Mbum, where he dwelt. From Mbum he went to the place Kimi where he settled. The Hausa call this place Kimimanga, or Big Kimi. The proper name is Kimingu, Kimi being the name for the chief and ngu, meaning stone.

Kimi had seven sons, as follows:

(1) Buatiko, who settled on the French side of the old Cameroons boundary;
(2) Jino, the ancestor of Ntem;
(3) Nso, who founded the chiefdom of Banso;
(4) Nditang, the founder of Ditam;
(5) Bamum, who founded Bö tok of Bamum;
(6) Mboanga, who founded Mbogha or Kugha, near Ngambe; part of its royal family is in Bamum;
(7) Mbwandu, which is in Tikari.

These seven sons of Kimi are called Mbwan, or kings. Smaller chiefs under them are properly called Mbgwe, or collectively Yangö .

The Ntem originally spoke a Tikari language, but because of people who settled with them long ago the language became Chenchö n.

Jino, the second-born son of Kimi, came and dwelt at Mobwa; the place is close to the present frontier. It was then empty land. He made the boundaries with Banyo, Banso, Bamum and Okari, which is the River Ndonga in the Hausa language.


When Jino died, Nyinkup (2) his prince succeeded him, and when Nyinkup died Nfomayi (3) succeeded. The next chiefs were Nfowap (4) and Nfombonjo (5). In Nfombonjos time the Tikari people began to come, because they were of his race, from the Okari river. When Nfombonjo died Sambele (6) succeeded: in his reign the Mambila began to appear. The next chiefs were Foncho (7) and Kutu (8). From Kutus daughter Yaa are descended the Wiya chiefs of Ndu, in the Nkambe Division. The next chiefs were Nonebe (9) and Fonkuking (10). When Fonkuking died Nfonansi (11) his prince succeeded him, and was succeeded in turn by Nfongansi (12). In Nfongansis time a woman came from Big Kimi and her son Fukimi came and built beside Ntem: he was called Small Kimi. Ngwa, the son his Quarter-Head Ngangnui, was the ancestor of the Mbem chief. Nfongambo (13) succeeded Nfongansi, and Nfowanko (14) succeeded Nfongambo.

Nfowanko had two sons. The elder was called Nfosua (or Nfokunso) and the younger was called Nfombambo. Nfowanko promised the elder son the throne, but he refused, saying that his younger brother would bewitch him and kill him. Their father Nfowanko arranged to give them both a proof-drink, but he died before this was done. Nfosua (15) succeeded him, but his younger brother started at once to make trouble, so Nfosua drove him out of Ntem. Then Nfombambo, the younger brother, went to Banyo, to a place called Kwancha, where he met Haman Gabdo, the Banyo chief. He begged Haman Gabdo for soldiers to go and war on Ntem. At first Haman Gabdo refused, saying the Ntem chief was his friend. Nfombambo then told him that he himself would go in front of the army, so Haman Gabdo agreed to the plan. Nfombambo returned to Ntem with an army, and they warred for eight or nine years. Nfosua was taken and beheaded and the captives were numberless. The Ntem people scattered to Tikari; and some to Kaka, Mambila and Nsungli, and these races began to kill them and use them as food.

When Nfosua was killed by the Fulani, his younger brother Nfombambo (16) succeeded, and moved his capital to Mbagu. He was greatly annoyed with the races who had killed and eaten the Ntem fugitives and started warring against them. He died at Mbagu. He was succeeded by Nfosangwi (17), who continued warring against them, and died at Mbot owing to the natural witchcraft of his brothers which they had inherited from Nfombambo. Nfosangwi had warred first in Mambila, then in Kaka, and finally in Mbot. He had been successful in war and wanted to take things from people, so his brothers killed him with witchcraft. He made war against Mbot because Mbot refused to return people who had taken refuge there and treated them as slaves. His cap is still in Mbot. His body was carried back to Mbagu. He was succeeded by Nfomonto (18), who continued warring and went to Mbot again, seeking to kill the chief there, but in vain, so he returned to Ntem. In his reign the Banyo chief Haman Gabdo died and Osumanu, his prince, succeeded. Osumanu sent his brother Yerima Gagamba to war against Ntem. The war lasted four to five months and about seven thousand people were captured. Later Osumanu sent his servant Kasalayite, who captured seven hundred and four people and carried them to Banyo: this was in the year in which Nfowanko II was born. Osumanu died and Omaru succeeded him. 1 Omaru, the chief of Banyo, sent his brother Yerima Isa to raid Ntem. He warred only one day, captured about one hundred and fifty people and burned the country. Then Omaru sent his messenger Adamu to Ntem, who captured forty-eight people on the farms but did not burn the country.

Nfomonto was taken to Banyo and died there; meanwhile his son Ndinko (19) succeeded during his fathers lifetime. He reigned thirty-six years. The Germans met Ndinko at Mbagu. 2 His younger brother Balawa went and invited the Fulani to dismiss Ndinko for his bad doings. He came back with German officers, begging them to dethrone Ndinko and put him on the throne instead. They agreed, so Balawa (20) succeeded and the officers took Ndinko to Banyo. After six years on the throne Balawa ate the tax-money, and when officers came to arrest him he ran away. So Balawa was replaced by Nfokunyankup (21), who made a sacrifice of six goats in the name of six previous chiefs: this is the sacrifice of not putting a new chief on the throne while the dethroned chief is still alive. Neither Ndinko nor Balawa are recognized as former chiefs because of their troubled rule and bad behaviour, Nfokunyankup reigned one year and died in Mbagu. Then Nfogansi II (22) was put on the throne according to native law and custom. He was an old man. He gave his cap to the chief of Ndu because he was too old to do the tax and court work required of him by the Government. Nfogansi IIs mother, Nyankamba, came out of Gaa compound in Ntem. He reigned for nine years, and died early in 1925. Ngu was brought to its present site by him during the visit of a District Officer. Nfowanko II (23) succeeded him and reigned for thirty-one years. He settled first at and brought the royal graves there. After three or four years he moved to the present site of the Ntem palace at Ngö bwe. His mother came out of the Chiefs palace at Wanti.

When he succeeded the Ntem people asked to be forgiven for the bad actions of the past. So Nfowanko sacrificed a fowl on his fathers grave, and from that time the evil which had come into the country from Nfombambo and had caused the death of chiefs and the spoiling of the country by the Fulani was stopped. He died at the Baptist Mission hospital, Kumbo, on 24th January, 1956, and on the same day his son, John Nfowanko, was put on the throne by Nij Yankimbansi, and took the throne-name of Nfonansi II (24). Chief John Nfonansi II was born in 1926 and educated up to Standard IV in the Ntem and Mbem Baptist School. He was chosen because he was the senior male child of his father, and a sacrifice had been made to ensure that only the senior son should succeed. His mother is a daughter of the Chief of Ngomko.


The people who were in the country before Ntem came were called Bwi. The Ntem drove them away.

Fai Tankum of Nso is a Kimi title meaning father of the chief. He settled at Kofum (Kovifö m in Lamnso), where his wife bore him four children. He chose one to be chief. The mother of these children was given the title Kwanso, meaning begin Nso. Fai Tankum brought ngwarung (the regulatory society) to Nso.

The head of Nsango, the King of Bamum, was taken by Nso in the reign of Ndinko, the nineteenth chief of Ntem.

The Shambaa (Chamba) did not pass through Ntem but went past Fumban. The Ntem call the Bali the Kutiri-Muntu.

The Fontem chief is one of our people. He left Mobwa in the first Fulani raids in anger and went by Mbiami and Ndop to his present place in the Mamfe Division.

Ngu came quite recently to their present place, having been driven from their home in Tikari by the Hausa, and resettled in Nfogansi IIs reign. They are not of the Kimi royal family, but Stewards to the Kimi kings. The correct title for their chief is Mgba Ngu. Their language is Tumu.

Before the Fulani came to Banyo the Wawa and Babute were there.


Ntem has always had close relations with their Nso brothers. When a Ntem chief went to Banso in the past the Ntem people built him a temporary house outside the capital, and when business was finished they removed it. Nowadays, since the Ntem people have become small, the Nso chief arranges that Fai Yuwars compound shall be his during his stay. Fai Yuwar is the descendant of a chief (duiy in Lamnso); when he comes to Ntem he will stay with Njifonsi at the palace. Gifts used to be exchanged between the two chiefs in the past; Fai Yuwar and the important man Njiketu were in charge of the exchanges.

Ntem used to be a central market. Here the Nso could meet Fulani and Hausa traders peacefully. The Nso brought kola, iron hoes, and strong native salt -nkiö - in bamboo stems. Here they could buy the beads called sintem. The large blue beads called sankonti 3 were traded down to Ntem from Kano and Sokoto. The money used in those days was cowries -mbwea.

The Nso came to the cry-dies (mortuary ceremonies) of the Ntem chiefs.

When the Baranyam raiders first attacked Kofum, then the Nso capital, Njiganggwo went from Ntem to help Nso, and was given the name of Barangombat, or Bara of the mountains. This was in the reign of Nfosua, also called Nfokunso, the fifteenth Ntem chief.

The friendship between Ntem and Ndu in Nsungli (Nkambe Division) used to be close, but was spoilt during the time Chief Mfo of Ndu was given the tax to collect by the British with the agreement of Ntem. He did not, we thought, distribute the tas-dash fairly and began to question the seniority of Ntem. When a chief died at Ndu, the Fais (lords) there chose a son to succeed him, and brought him to the Ntem chief to enthrone in the proper way. The late Ndu chief was put on the throne by Balawa.

When the Kimi (Bamkin) chief dies a chinda (retainer) is sent to us with the news, and we send important titled men to the cry-die. People are sent by the Ntem chiefs titled brother Njifonsi, and by the sambeji, or seven non-royal councillors. Palace stewards, nkwankum, will also be sent by the chief of Ntem. People were sent when Nfo Gwasa died in the nineteen-twenties. Kimi was not informed of Nfowankos death in 1956 because of travel difficulties then, but Ntem will probably do so before long. When the Kimi people come they will bring a goat and holy water in a calabash so that the chief of Ntem can wash in it every day. The water comes from a special lake called Mö kö n Njabando.


The chief - nkup or nkum, plural ukukup or ukup - is assisted in governing the country by a council composed of Monku, the chiefs titular mother, and nine important lords, usese (singular nsi, plural also use). These ten meet each week to drink at the palace on the day called Ncheji, which is a rest-day set aside to honour the memory of the late chief. The nine usese consist of the seven sambeji and two councillors of the bainfo group as follows:-

(1) Njinkup, the senior councillor } (2) Njifonsi, the chiefs brother by the same father } bainfo (3) Monggunsi } (4) Montunsi } (5) Monkwonsi } sambeji (6) Njikungwö nsi } (7) Nsansi } (8) Nyengasongkup } (9) Njikongkup }

Njifonsis special duty is to look after the chiefs children. All marriages of chiefs daughters are first referred to him and he brings the matter to the chief with the assistance of the bainfo Njigwa and Kangkwe. When the chiefs children are sick they are brought to his compound. The title s not inherited: Njifonsis son will be an ordinary man. If he should die he is replaced by another son of a former chief.

The remaining eight councillors are concerned with public affairs and their titles are hereditary. All will assemble in the palace when an important sacrifice is to be made there.

The titles of sambeji normally pass from brother to brother. A nji is chosen by the people of his compound and presented to the chief, who will put a cap on him and rub him with camwood. The chief will not refuse to accept the choice of the family. The sambeji have the privilege of sitting on bamboo stools, wearing ivory bangles and a necklace or two leopards teeth and the blue beads called sankonti.

There is an important man called Njikwansi who is nji of the palace, and stays there. He is a relative of the chief. His work is taking care of the valuable things in the palace, and he is also important in the Jaa ceremony. He plays the part of tankum or father to the chief.

The transmission of the chiefs orders and the collection of tax is in the hands of titled Quarter-Heads. There were nine Quarters previously, but in English times two, Kungulowö and Wanti, became independent. The remaining seven are Nkungit, Shimbiy, Mfap, Tunò , Mishá , Nsö gha and Mundo, the palace area. 4 When the nji of a Quarter dies his family will choose a successor and bring him to the chief, who invests him with a cap an loincloth ad rubs him with camwood. After three days the new Quarter-Head will return the cap and loincloth and bring a goat to the chief. Quarter-Headships are family titles.

The Chief cannot dismiss his councillors. If a councillor behaves badly over a long period he will be boycotted, but he cannot be deposed, and the title he bears cannot depart from the family.

If the chief himself offends, his councillors will call on Monku to restrain him. He will then call in all the usese, knock hands to them, and give them a goat as amends for his offence. If a chief were to persist in doing wrong, his people would start to leave him. He will have to continue paying fines to the usese till he stops doing wrong.

The important titles of Ntem were held by the bainfo, sambeji, ugaa and nkwankum (or nkwankup); and in the families of Tumbua, Ngut, Nkujongka, Wantikup and Kungulonkup.
The bainfo title-holders are, apart from the senior councillor: Njifonsi, Njigwanya, Kangkwe, Njimanfo, Tanfonsi, Mbaa, and Fufe.
The ugaa title-holders are: Fonkumbat, Kungongwe, Nfokumbo, Nkujongka, Nfokunjong, and Fongongku.
The ukwankum titles are referred to later.

There are also religious officers as follows: three hereditary sacrificial priests who enter Shele, the royal grave-enclosure, and who are descended from the first chief; the persons connected with the sacred drum Jaa; and those concerned with the Songkhö medicine.


All big cases were tried before the chief. Small disputes could be settled by Quarter-Heads, but when a dispute was above them they brought the case to the palace.

All cases of witchcraft were tried before the chief. The accuser and the accused would each bring a fowl, and each fowl was given sasswood to drink in the chiefs presence. The fowl of the guilty man would die. The guilty man would have to stop his witchcraft and give a woman to the chief.

Persons committing adultery were judged and fined by the chief. The guilty man would have to give his sister to the chief, and the chief would send to his compound by means of the sacred spear Shinto.

The chief settled all land disputes.

Divorce cases were tried by the chief and nine usese.

Cases arising between important men were tried by ngwarung.

It was Tangu (Tangwarung) who had the duty of giving the charge and executing the judgement. Ngwarung drove murderers from the land of Ntem for ever.


Monku is always the sister of a chief; the chiefs real mother is called Mankum.

Monku chooses the son who is to succeed to the chiefdom. Monku herself is appointed by the chief after the usese have been assembled to advise him. A kwankum is sent to hold her. She is even brought to the chief, who puts her on a carved stool -kala or kavra. Then the chief summons the people and presents her to them, and all will clap hands and dance for gladness.

Monku has her own compound and is served by her sisters sons and brothers sons. She is consulted when sacrifices are to be made in the palace and takes part when sacrifices are made there with the usese present. She waits with the chief to hear reports of the sacrifices at Shele.

Monku supervises the work of women from every Quarter who come to cultivate the chiefs farm. She fixes the time in the month Ngmwa for the women to go net-fishing. She owns four important fisheries - the River Mebe, and the streams Mgbu, Maangi, and No.

Monku issues orders to all women. She has headwomen called Mballi and Ntomo in each Quarter, who assemble the women for pleasure.

Monku attends the chiefs council and wears the ivory bangle of a councillor. Nowadays she attends the Court too.

The last illness of Monku is reported to the chief by Mballi. She is buried by nkwankum headed by Nkunsinkup and Nkusonkup. She is buried in Shele, where all chiefs are also buried.

The present Monku was appointed by the present chiefs father and was his sister: she was the second Monku in that reign.


The sacred drum - Jaa or Njiya - is the most important thing brought from Kimi. It is kept hanging from the rafters of a special house -nge-jaa - in the palace. It is a large double-ended drum wrapped in a cloth. In the same house is kept the sacred spear Shinto, which has a squared-off blade, an openwork neck and decorated butt. Three bells are attached to it, and the chief will handle it on big occasions.

Jaa rings of its own accord when a bad disease is coming or when a member of the royal family is to die. It will also ring when a similar drum is taken down at Kimi for a big celebration. It brings such messages to keep the chief and people forewarned.

In the eleventh month of every year Jaa is brought out into the chiefs compound. There are five people who work together for Jaa: the chief, Monku, Nyenjaa (the chiefs sister, who is the mother of Jaa), Njiganjaa, and Njifonsi. It is the duty of Nyenjaa and Njiganjaa together to prepare the food and wine and support the chief in providing the forty-nine things for the feast and dance of Jaa, which lasts seven days. For every day of the feast the chief must provide seven pots of wine, seven calabashes of maize or guinea-corn fufu, and seven pots of beef. The drum is carried throughout the seven days by Njikwansi.

Before the drum is carried down a sacrifice is made on it of a cock and hen of any colour, and wine is poured into a pot. This done, all will wash themselves. The duty of washing the drum itself is reserved to Nyenjaa, who receives the cloth robe of Jaa as a reward and will take it with her after the dance. The sacrifice on the drum is made by the princes born to a chief since he began to reign. Prayers are then made for all bad things to leave the country, for many children to be born, for plenty of strangers to visit, and for peace in the town.


The ngwarung society was brought by Jino from Kimi. A chief cannot rule without it: it has the power for community work. Through is the chief orders the mbongwarung to call the people together. In the old days it seized evil-doers. When a bad thing is done ngwarung will make an announcement against it and threaten the people by shouting. Ngwarung dances at the cry-dies if important members: otherwise it dances in the palace at night, and no woman may see it.
It meets on a special day of the week, Nweji. On this day nobody may knock a drum except ngwarung. Ngwarung also has a great many gongs, and when these are knocked at once this is called lu.

No prince in the male line may enter ngwarung. Sisters sons of a chief may enter. The sambeji may enter to see the human-headed mask Ngang and become ngangngwarung; but their sons do not enter. A nji desiring to become ngangngwarung must bring goats and fowls to feast the other members; the chief must get a share of these. A fowl is paid after the feast to see Ngang. In addition to the sambeji, the nkwankum Nkusonkup, Fankup, and Nkunsinkup are ngangngwarung.

The executive work of ngwarung is done by the nkwankum from ngwarung side called mbongwarung. The head of these is called Tangwarung or Tanggu. He is not related to the chief, and is appointed by the chief and not elected by the members. He is assisted by Menku, Tingmbonja, Nyenganfi, Sanke, and many ordinary members. He stays in his private compound in the palace.


This is a very powerful and secret thing corresponding to Nwantap among the Kaka people: the big thing (cult object) is looked after by Mfokungap, who is not of the royal family. Its juju, called Bombwa, stays in the palace. When a village changes its site, ombwa goes ahead; when a chief leaves the country, it travels ahead and locks every bad thing on the way. It is quite separate from ngwarung.

Four people have Songkhö lodges: Nishango, Njankosö , Njiganggwo and Fankup. They have each built a small house for Songkhö . At the time of planting, in the months Gap and Gumbuwo, the Songkhö people will go out and lock the roads against witchcraft, strong-winds, sickness and other bad things.

No woman may see Songkhö .


Nggiri is a society for princes (ubokup, singular mokup) which was brought from Kimi. It has a drum, Ngwongkhö , which is kept in the banda (loft) of the council chamber. This is knocked when a prince or nji dies. When it is heard Nggiri will dance. Its only work is to go to cry-dies. At the head of Nggiri is a pince, with the title of Tanggiri, who may punish princes who misbehave in Ngirris house. Nggiri has a special meeting day once a week. When Nggiri goes out with its mask, which is decorated with cowries, all people run away in fear. Tanggiri has the Sheys Nti, Mbaa and Fufe as helpers. Besides Tanggiri, Njifonsi is ngangnggiri.


There are seven important nkwankum (nkwankup, singular kwankum, kwankup), namely: Nkusonkup, Fankup, Njikwansi, Nkunsinkup, Menku, Nyeganji, and Kalankup.

The chiefs retainers are recruited in the following ways:-

(a) chiefs daughters are given to compounds where there are not many people so as to increase the population. Servants will be recruited for the palace from such quarters later.
(b) If twins are born, the female will be taken as a chiefs wife. If both twins are male, one will be taken as a servant. If both are female, one will be left with the parents.

Certain nkwankum have important duties at the burial of the chief: these are all sons of princesses.

Two outstanding servants from among the chiefs own pages are selected to serve in the palace as Nganse and Menku, his assistant. Their titles are not hereditary and they may serve for more than one reign. Menku looks after wine-tapping and food for the palace and runs errands for the chief. The chief has a page (chefon) called Faanda, who stays in the palace from boyhood until he is about twenty-one, when he is replaced; he has an assistant called Foshi.


The chiefs wives (unengo, singular nengo) are taken from any Quarter where there are many people except the palace Quarter, Mundo, because the women there are of the chiefs own line. Brothers and sons of a chief may, however, marry great-grand-daughters of a previous chief.

A palace servant is sent to mark the doorpost of the house in which the chosen girl lives as a sign that she is reserved for the chief. Monku helps to train the young girls brought to the palace.

The chiefs senior wife is called Monto, and the other important wives have the titles Monginkup, Nensukup, Nankup, Njemmu, Nkangte, and Longnye.

14. NFU

The manjong or military lodge of Ntem is called Nfu. There are two Nfu houses in every Quarter, under a Tanfu and two Ufomi (singular Nfomi). Those in the palace Quarter are the senior houses. The senior Ufomi are chosen from among the daughters sons of a chief. Utanfu are chosen by the members of the houses for ability.

In the old days Nfu organized war and met to discuss local matters once a week. It not only planned war but also hunting in the dry season. The Ufomi and the Utanfu are responsible for assembling people to build or repair the palace, and may punish any stubborn man who refuses to work.

It was the chief, in the past, who decided to make war. He would inform the Ufomi and Utanfu, who would then make plans.

There are two other lodges within Nfu, called Nshoro and Ghawum.

If the chief forgot his cutlass when going to the Nfu house he could be made to stand up and be fined like any other member.

The NFU meeting day for the palace Quarter is Lanji.

In the old days NFU fought with dane-guns, bows and arrows, and spears and shields.


The chief has the right to all leopards killed in his territory, and to all elephant tusks. No one but he may eat of the fish called manshi. He has the right to captives taken in war. Heads taken in war were brought to the palace to be put in a special house called Tap, which only the chief and the page called Faanda could enter. Only the chief may wear a full necklace of leopards teeth.

The chief has the duty of acting as guardian to fatherless sons of important men. He rears them in the palace and finds wives for them.
The chief has the duty of sacrificing to bring and stop rain. He does this by pouring mimbo in front of the palace, and his prayers are heard.

Among the praise-names of the chief are:-
Mfi`á chè má nggo - termites find people, i.e. when termites come, people will gather to eat them.
Wvú - lion.
Nggwi - leopard.
Mungwi - Gods child.
Mbwi - rain
Munggö - small trouble, i.e. if a man does wrong the chief will punish him.


The very day of the chiefs death, the men listed below, who have been looking after the chief and are with him in his last moments, will report to Monku and the sambeji. At once Monku and the sambeji will sit down together in a private meeting and appoint a son of the late chief. The sambeji hand the chosen son over to Monku, who in turn hands him over to Nji Yankimbansi, who has the duty and privilege of installing him.

Monku and the sambeji then hand over matters to the following men who have been with the dying chief:-

(1) Nji Yankimbansi, the installer, who has held the chair and cap since the time of Jino.
(2) Njanko Mbuambua.
(3) Nfokunjo.
These three are from the chiefs family.
(4) Nkusonkup.
(5) Nkunsinkup.
(6) Fankup.
(7) Kalankup.
These four are nkwankum descended from a chiefs daughter.

If the heir is present at the time of the former chiefs death he will be called to hold the head of the late chief.

Nkusonkup, Nkunsinkup, Fankup and Nfombuo carry the chiefs corpse to the old burial site Shele. They will put him sitting in the grave and put to his mouth a bushcow drinking-horn (ntunwa). When covering the grave with earth they will keep the mouth of the horn pointing out, but well covered, to receive sacrifices.

Seven days after the former chiefs death the ceremony is completed by a mourning of the whole population. No person has worked after the death of the chief, but has waited in the town until the seventh day. All people go without has or caps. On the seventh day the chief is brought out escorted by nkwankum and ngwarung: he usually stands by the door of the palace hall. Then Menku is hanged on a rope by the right hand and Nkusonkup, holding the rope with the left hand, beats him with the right. Menku cries out Fon-né three times after each flogging, and the crowd also cries bitterly after each cry. The new chief then re-enters the palace, and comes out again after a while. He asks the people for whom they are crying, and they reply that they are mourning for their son. Then he tells them that they should not cry any more because their son is gone away but is now back again. Then the chief sprinkles the people three times with camwood mixed with water in a special pot brought by Nkusonkup. He does this with a kind of fan (saa), which he uses ever after all his life for blessing other things. Then he is led back to the palace by the nkwankum and by ngwarung, who are, all this time, carrying their lawful spears. After the sprinkling the new chief is known to all, and all will put on their caps, dance, fire guns and come to clap hands to the new chief. While the young men were dancing, the new chief would give a present of a woman to Nji Yankimbansi: nowadays a female goat or sheep is given instead of a woman.

A prince becomes a chief as soon as Nji Yankimbansi puts him upon the lawful seat, kavra or kala. In addition he is given four lawful rings, to be worn on two fingers and two toes. He also gets a necklace of beads mixed with leopards and lions teeth.

The new chief calls upon the wives and retainers of the late chief to swear to be loyal, but he does not give them any medicine that would kill them if they deceived him.

If the chief is a young boy, he will be rubbed with a medicine mixed with camwood to make him grow fat.

The new chief does not take the old and young wives of the late chief until six months have passed.


The big Shele sacrifice takes place in the month Ngkö (c. November), when the three Shele priests concern themselves with the outcome of the preceding season.

The graves of past chiefs are now at Nkwulö , even that of the late chief who died at Banso Hospital. The bodies of some were left in Mbagu, but their drinking-horns were brought to Nkwulö and half-buried to receive libations of mimbo. Nearby a fence, with thorns in it, called nkia ngwor is put. Ngwor is the title of a big king, one of the sons of Kimi, corresponding to Lung in Tikari, Fon in Banso, and Mfo in Bamum.

The chief must consult his late fathers every year by sending the following people to Shele: Nfombuo, Njanko Mbuambua, and Nfokunjo. They will report whether children are to be born in that year: if the signs are bad hey will also report. When they go, the chief, Monku, Monto, the senior wife, and Monginkup, another important wife, will stay indoors until they return. There will be no dancing or playing of drums until the three priests are back. When they are back they will report in turn to the chief, Monku, Monto, and Monginkup and are given food while doing so.


If a matter cannot be decided by the chief and his usese by discussion, Njiketu is called in and looks into the future with the help of grain seeds. He is not of the royal family. He has the duty of advising the chief and people of the right time to plant seeds and crops, and also informs the chief when crops are maturing. Guinea-corn seed is first planted in a round bed in the chiefs yard before people start to plant.


Maize, guinea-corn and Bambarra nuts came with Ntem from Kimi. Cocoyam is also an old crop. Cassava is a new crop and sweet potatoes came in from Bamum side. We also have a smooth yam called nyonyo.

Guinea-corn is used in the sacrifices.


The dances which came from Kimi, of which the chief is head, are Fufuwö , a dance of the chiefs wives and chindas, Mbamble, Tilai, Kitö , Mukwo, Nggwo, and Nja.

When a new dance society is introduces, the founders go to Njifonsi, who will report it to the chief. There is no payment for introducing a new dance society.

There are also Samba houses for boys: Samba has been here a long time. The Chong society for women is a new thing.


These are: (1) Lanji, Nfu day; (2) Nchesap; (3) Nchende; (4) Nchejonka; (5) Nchejuap; (6) Ndor; (7) Nweki, ngwarung day; and (8) Ncheji, the native Sunday.


The Ntem people count moons as follows:-

(1) Gap
(2) Gumbuwo
(3) Sanashi
(4) Kunkushi
(5) Nsugha or Nsö
(6) Kunggwa
(7) Burukwe
(8) Ngkwa
(9) Ngmwa
(10) Ndankaghwe
(11) Ngwalu
(12) Ngkö

Gap is between the wet and dry seasons. In this month Songkhö goes out to lock the roads and continues into the next month. In Gumbuwo the second crop of corn begins to be planted. In Sanashi termites begin to come out at night. In Kunkushi the termites are flying everywhere. In Nsugha or Nsö the important men will be making sacrifices for guinea-corn, or fon-nsö . In Kunggwa everyone carries guinea-corn seed to the farm. In Burukwe women start to weed guinea-corn. In Ngkwa men prepare the beds for transplanting guinea-con. In Ngmwa Monku gets the women ready to go fishing. In Ndankaghwe men are starting to burn the grass. In Nggwalu there is no rain and the women sleep out while fishing for seven days at a time, coming back each Ncheji to get food. The women fish with nets and then men will go down and spear fish. Some fish are consumed locally and some sold in Banso and Nsungli. Ngkö is the real dry season: the rivers fall and women must go into pools to get fish. This is when the three priests sacrifice at Shele.

Notes added after initial publication

[From 1962 correspondence between EMC with chief when in quotes].

P3. - Buatiko can be identified with Mbwàtikong in the Tikar plan Mbogha - Ga near Ngambe, old site. Mbwandu probably Bandam.

P7. para 5 - All the nine councillors are also [termed] bainfo (cp Lam Nso vibaay, Mbot Mkibai?) Njinkup is ntumbura; le cadet royal corresponding to Nso duy, mbot wiruu. Said to be descended from one of the first chiefs.

P8. - Njikwansi is a relative on mothers side. The quarter-heads are Ugaa. The Ugaa are descended from Fo Bujwo Shele is their head-duty. They do no work at the palace.

P9. - Only chiefs sons and sambenji have the right to wear leopard skin belts etc.. Only kibais may sit on buffalo skulls. (In Ngu buffalo skulls are the seats of the allegedly conquered title-holders).

P10. - Nyenjaa is appointed by the chief, like Monku.

P12. - Nyishano, not Nishango. He is of Ntumbwa. Njiganggwo is a sambenji [perhaps his personal, not title-name?]. Of the Nkwankum all are appointed but some follow fathers. Nganse is an official title, not a name.

P13. - Re 7 titled wives. These wives had other young wives under their charge. Re Tap. This Tap is the Kimi Tap, and not that of Kaka and Mbem.

P14. - No 2 of the 3 Ntumbwa admitted to the dying chief is also called Njankoi. Burlers [grave-diggers] can be any Kwankum.

P16. - Re the people sent to Shele for omens. These three are Ntumbwa. Re Njikeru - Njiketu is Tumbwa. He helps the chief in the [preliminary] guinea-corn sowing and sacrifice called Ngwa or Tufa.

P17. - Monku strarts the fishing season by imitations fishing in the compound with all women on 1st December, and before fishing begins. This is called Shanshi.

Updated Sunday, June 2, 1996