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Author of the Entry:
Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaoundé 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Daniel A. Nkemleke, University of Yaoundé 1, email@example.com
Emmanuel Ambe Ndonwi, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, email@example.com
Karolina Anna Kulpa, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacqueline Meguimgue (Storyteller)
Age of narrator: 88 (in 2019)
Social status: Matriarch
Language of narration: Yemba
Bio prepared by Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaoundé 1, email@example.com
Cultural Backround: The Yemba people are mostly found in Dschang in the West Region of Cameroon and their origin can be traced to the Bantu of Central Africa (see the entry).
A long time ago in Dschang, the people led a peaceful life. Individual habitations were pretty far from one another. Powerful men in the village occupied vast portions of lands so that they could be heads of families and later rulers in those areas. Thus, many lived in isolated areas. This dream of living in isolation was deferred by a sudden invasion of the land by an evil spirit. After a futile struggle to combat the ravaging evil spirit, the villagers thought of one of their brothers in a distant village, who was branded a wizard and ostracized from the village by his fellow brothers because of his supernatural powers. He could combat all evil spirits. The people then decided to send emissaries to solicit help from him. While on their way to his house, they came across a monkey that told them that the road to where they were going was very dangerous. They insisted and continued their journey. Again, they met a roaring lion that would almost have devoured them, were it not for their ancestors’ timely intervention. After trekking again for a while, they saw a house on a hill in front of them. Behold, it was the house they had been looking for. As they approached the house, a voice from inside asked, “what have you come to do in my house?” “What do you want from a man you all branded a wizard? Leave!” After the emissaries begged for forgiveness, the brother forgave his people and told them that the only way through which they could destroy the evil spirit was by adopting a new way of living, which was respecting their culture and living in harmony with their ancestors, especially when it comes to issues of enthronement. There and then, the emissaries chose their banished brother, Fongka’ala, to be their next leader since he had supernatural powers and a good number of wives and children. Preparations for the enthronement went on for four days, and on the fifth day, the coronation took place. On the sixth day, he combatted and defeated all the evil spirits, and on the seventh day, he summoned all the villagers, men, women and children, to celebrate the victory over the evil spirits.
Since then, the villagers of Dschang hold the fifth and seventh days of the week sacred. No farming activity is carried out on these days because the days are set aside for the spirit world to do their own activities. The phenomenon also obtains in other grassfield regions of Cameroon though the myths behind them may vary according to region.
The practice of observing traditional religious holidays is common among the Yemba people, particularly among the tribes of the grass field regions of Cameroon. According to tradition, a week is eight days long, one of which is considered a kind of Sabbath and dedicated to the offering of sacrifices to their gods.
Ndemanu, T. Michael, “Traditional African religions and their influences on the worldviews of Bangwa people of Cameroon: Expanding the cultural horizons of study abroad students and Professionals”, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad XXX.1 (2018): 70–84.
Method of data collection: Tape recording and note taking
Researcher: Eleanor A. Dasi
Assistant researcher/Translator: Songo Marius Kevin