By Tikum Mbah Azonga
It’s surely not everyday that one comes across a book on one’s own local community, especially in a Cameroon where the average citizen with money in his pocket, would rush for a bottle of beer rather than a book to read. So when one is landed with such a catch, it is a moment that calls for celebration. It’s a windfall.
Such is the case with my recent discovery somewhere of a booklet that traces the recent history of the Mankon people. Mankon is one of the four main villages that make up Bamenda I Sub Division and Bamenda I Council in Mezam Division of the North West Province of Cameroon. The other three are Chomba, Mbatu and Nsongwa. Interestingly the four villages speak various dialects of the same language which when expanded to include similar other ones in the Division, is called, “Ngemba”, the meaning being, “I say, eh?”
The book entitled: Focus on Nukwi Nu Fo Ndefru III: Mankon Cultural Festival, 23rd to 31st December 1984, is compiled and edited by Yalla Eballa and Emmanuel Aloangamo Aka. In the introduction, A.F. Monikang and F.A. Ndenge state: “In this pamphlet an attempt has been made to present the Mankon people to the general public, especially to the younger generation, and the significance of the cultural festival, Nukwi which is one of the most important heritages of the Mankon people.”
The writers go on to say: “historically, Nukwi dates back to the period of the founding fathers of Mankon. This cultural event takes place once during the reign of each Fo of Mankon to commemorate the death of his successor. Thus the present festival is in memory of the late Fo Ndefru III, and therefore called Nukwi Nu Fo Ndefru III. My impression is that although the present publication is on the Nukwi, it could, in fact have been on any other topic related to the Mankon people, the topic itself being only a ‘pretext’ to highlight some aspect of the locality covered.
The cover of the book is a display of history because it carries the photographs of three Mankon Fons: Fo Angwafo II, grandfather of the current Fo Angwafo III, and Fo Ndefru III, son of the former and father of the latter. Also conspicuously on display on the cover is the cultural emblem of the Mankon people. According to a description of the object found on page 5, the emblem is made up of the cassia leaf which symbolizes compromise and peace, the twin gongs which represent authority, as well as the two elephant tusks which stand for the monarchy. Finally the two hands signify the Kwi’fo (executive body) and Takumbeng (legislative body).
The publication is divided into thirteen sections which include the introduction, the Nukwi festival, an outline geography of Mankon, the origin and migration of the Mankon people, the reign of Fo Ndefru 1919-1959, the integration of malcontents in Mankon in 1947, as well as biographical notes on the late Mafo Manka’a Ngunguru, an outstanding political figure in Mankon political history.
Focus on Nukwi Nu Fo Ndefru III: Mankon Cultural Festival, 23rd to 31st December 1984 is flawed by the fact that it does not carry a date of publication. Furthermore, although the photographs reproduced therein are attention catching, their value diminishes because many are not captioned, neither do they have the year in which they were taken indicated. Even so, the book is one that should be read by everyone, not only people from Mankon.