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Author of the Entry:
Divine Che Neba, University of Yaoundé 1, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Daniel A. Nkemleke, University of Yaoundé 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katarzyna Marciniak and team members in Warsaw, University Warsaw, email@example.com
Joseph Njong (Storyteller)
Age of Narrator: 65 (in 2016)
Social status: Quarter Head (a tribal function)
Language of narration: Bafut
Bio prepared by Divine Che Neba, University of Yaoundé 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Background of Bafut: Bafut is located in the North-West region of Cameroon with an estimated population of over at 140,000 inhabitants spread over a land surface area of about 340 square kilometres. As Shu Abednego Che and Tanda Isidore Fuh rightly observed, in the History of Bafut, the first Bafut people migrated from Lake Chad down to the Tikari area North West of Fumban which had a dynastic rule. In constant search for fertile land and a more peaceful settlement, they migrated again to Ndobo (present day Ndop) and then down to Bafut where they finally settled. The people are called B+f++. The Fon who is a paramount leader, the head of the legislative wing of leadership in Bafut, is closely assisted. Batangchos (second class Fons), who all pay allegiance to him. Prominent religious festival in Bafut include Pacification of village Gods in all major shrines in Bafut; the wangle (Grass cutting ritual geared at protecting the village form enemies of all types, including neighbouring villages); worship of family Gods in family shrines; protection rituals at individual family and village levels. The people generally believe in the worship of ancestors, spirits, ghost, God, Gods. Most of the shrines of these gods are at the mountain sites, caves, in streams, lakes, valleys etc. The end-of-year religious festivals are crowned with the Fon dance (Abinimfor), which can be compared, for instance, to the Greek Dionysian festival*.
Occasion: Live performance
* See: Nkemleke, Daniel A., Divine Che Neba and Eleanor A. Dasi, Mythic Fulfillment and Performance in the Bafut Abinimfor and the Greek Dionysian Festivals.
The form of the notation reflects the rhythm of the performance. Capital letters indicate when the storyteller’s voice was high; italics indicate when the voice was low.
In the beginning, God was alone.
He had no company.
He liked to see people.
He liked to see people dance, run, play, and converse and do many things.
[Aside by the storyteller] If we are living today... it is because God needed our company. [The storyteller wipes saliva that is dripping at the extreme right side of his mouth. He wipes his face and continues.]
[There is much smoke in the house and tears are running down the eyes of the storyteller and some members of the audience.]
He had little comfort and needed the company of man.
He needed the company of man. The idea of creating man came to his mind.
And he decided to create man. And live with him.
He [God] thought of moulding a figure.
In this light, he left for a stream nearby,
Dug and collected fine clay*,
You know that clay is of different types,
Sandy, soft, black, red, black,
So, he took the best clay,
He started his job of moulding the various parts of the body.
He moulded the head, body, legs, arms, ears, nose, and all other parts of the body.
His aim was to create a figure that resembled him.
Everything he had on his body,
He gave it to man,
[Audience ask in a chorus:] Was God a man or a woman?
[Storyteller:] HOW CAN GOD BE A WOMAN, HE WAS A MAN.
[Members of audience nod, while the men present are satisfied, women present are not satisfied as many of them wrinkle their faces. The storyteller continues.]
After God moulded all parts of the body,
He decided to harden the soft clay,
He made a lake of fire,
Fire that could burn this house [I.e. the house in which this story was being told] Within the shortest time.
He made this large fire,
Placed all the moulded parts into it;
As the fire was burning
The parts were hardening.
[The storyteller turns to his audience:] Have you ever seen the blacksmith’s fire?
[Storyteller:] WHO AMONG YOU KNOW NTUMENYU AT NIKO**? If you visit him you will know what I mean.
When I talk of the blacksmith’s fire, it is extremely hot,
It melts iron.
This fire, as I said, was too hot.
After a short time,
God wanted to see
He was also anxious removing
The parts before they were completely hardened.
These parts were red,
They were not very solid,
They were weak,
He carefully removed them,
Joined them together.
They were smooth and good looking
But too weak.
He breathed air into them
And they started living.
God was happy
To have a companion.
This set was red.
He continued his creation.
Another set was carefully moulded,
Placed on the blazing fire,
The first mistakes were corrected,
God passed his time playing with
The red set.
Upon his return,
The other set on
The blazing fire became very dark and hard.
God carefully joined them,
Breathed air into them.
This set was very strong
They could work the whole day and night,
With no rest,
And were hardly tired.
He thought of burning the other red race
He had created before,
“NO, ONE SHOULD BE STRONGER.”
He found two races in front of him:
The first, red but weak,
The second, black and hard.
That is how the two races in this world originated.
[The storyteller reiterates.]
Know that the red men were hurriedly made beings,
And that is why they hurry over things.
Did you not see the group that came here...?
I mean those who were working with the village community project. [Reference to European expatriates who work in the local community.]
They always move fast,
Hurrying greg greg greg greg and
That is how God
Hurriedly made them.
This is the end of my story.
* The motif of creation of the Man from clay appears in many cultures; see, e.g., the Bible and Prometheus’ myth in Greek mythology (footnote by the UW part of the team).
** Reference to a local blacksmith.
Myths from different cultures have attempted to provide answers to the origin of different races that make up the world, after science has failed to give a satisfactory response. The above myth is one of the African variants, particularly from Bafut, in the Northwest region of Cameroon. The common denominator between this myth and most world myths is man’s origin from the soil (clay). Also, the perplexing questions about the different colors and why one race is seemingly physically stronger than the other are clearly answered, as the color and sturdiness are determined by the duration of each of these races in the blacksmith’s fire.
Aletum, Michael Tabuwe, Political conflicts within the traditional and the modern institutions. A case study of Bafut-Cameroon, Vander Pub., 1973.
Engard, Ronald K., "Myth and Political Economy of Bafut (Cameroon). The structural history of an African Kingdom", Paideuma: Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde 34 (1988): 49–89 (accessed: January 21, 2021).
Niba, Matthias, The Bafut Conundrum. Keynote address at BMCA, USA. Minneapolis, 2006.
Shu Abednego Che and Tanda Isidore Fuh, “The History of Bafut”, bafutmanjongcalgary.ca (accessed: November 25, 2016).
Researcher: Divine Che Neba (trans.).
Method of data collection: Tape recording.
Editor: Daniel A. Nkemleke.