By Tikum Mbah Azonga
(alias Lukong Mbilam, Wan Shufai Ndzendzev wo Mandze, wo Kimbo)
There is something mythical about Nso sons and daughters: generally, they like their culture, but especially their language. This statement is borne out by two facts, the first of which is that when someone from outside arrives in that homeland to take up residence, they are told in Lamnso: “A ked fo ye’ lamnso’eh!” meaning, “You must learn Lamnso, eh?” The other supporting evidence is that Nso people generally like to marry among themselves. Although they marry outside of the Nso clan, such instances are few and far between.
One thing no one can deny Nso people is that they have a very rich cultural background. Aware of this, they have in recent years sought to revamp and showcase their patrimony whenever they can. An example is Mfu` House in Ghana Street Bamenda which is a replica of what such a `meeting House` looks like back home. On Mfu` days, members all clad in the corresponding traditional regalia, come together, deliberate, drink, sing, and clash their Mfu` `swords`. When they at the climax, they can be heard exclaiming joyously in the name of the Mfu` secret society: “Mfu` eh!”. A Mfu` meeting is an event worth witnessing, the more so as it really looks like what one might call a piece of Nso in Bamenda. Another eloquent demonstration of Nso culture is the Ngon-Nso 2010 Festival that was held in Kumbo in April of this year. To be more precise, the cultural bonanza took place from April 3 to 11. As part of the celebration, a special magazine was produced with the participation of the Nso royal family, the NSO Development Association (NSODA), internal and external elite as well as many other Nso sons and daughters.
Ngon-Nso was more than a cultural festival. It was a celebration whose focus was on Ngon-Nso, the founder of the Nso dynasty. Ngon-Nso was a sister to Nchare-Yen and Mfomban. It turned out that the two brothers left their ancestral land for greener pastures but carefully avoided informing their sister because they wanted her to stay at home. However, Ngon-Nso got wind of the departure and also took off with her own followers. While Ngon-Nso founded the Nso clan, Nchare-Yen founded the Bamoun clan and Mfomban started the Mbam family which is today found in the Mbam and Inoubou and Mbam and Kim Divisions around Bafia and Ntui in the Centre Province of Cameroon.
As might be expected, the cover of the magazine is dominated by a remarkable figure of Ngon-Nso sitting on a stool (or so it seems) that forms part of her lower body. In conformity with royal taste, the ancestor’s entire body – except for the face, ears and hands - is covered with cowries carefully planted so that they form an exquisite architecture capable of wooing anybody who looks at it: children and adults; women and children; primary, secondary and university scholars, researchers and even the laity. On the illustration, Ngon-Nso is alone with not a single other soul anywhere around her. In a way, this could be interpreted as an emphasis of her absolute power over her kingdom and those over whom she rules and has dominion. This is so because according to tradition, a Fon never dies. The Fon “goes missing”. It is therefore believed that wherever this mother ancestor of the Nso clan is, she is still brooding over her children and keeping them out of harm`s way, like every good mother would do. On another note, the inside front cover of the publication carries the photograph of the Head of State, Paul Biya while on the opposite page is that of Prime Minister Philemon Yang. The third page features Culture Minister Ama Tutu Muna.
It was in the year 1394 that the three siblings - Nchare-Yen, Ngon-Nso and Mfomban - went their separate ways and it was in that same year that they founded their respective dynasties. Not irrelevantly, the current Fon of Nso, the relatively young, handsome and dynamic Sehm Mbinglo III, in his address published in the magazine on the occasion of Ngon-Nso 2010, lays emphasis on the need for the families of the three dynasties to work in synergy with each other. He even goes the extra mile to advocate a football tournament whose matches would take place alternately in Kumbo, Foumban and Bafia.
In his own address also published in the magazine, the National President of NSODA, Shey Wilfred Banmbuh says: “The primordial objective of the festival is to transmit and indeed inculcate our ancestral norms, values and traditions in our offspring. It could not be otherwise because our tradition, norms and values are what together bind us as one people, give us one culture and one identity”.
The publication is rich in its treatment of different aspects of Nso culture. It is thus that in it one finds an article on the Nchumelu, ‘the Matrilineal Line of the Nso Fon’, written by Bulami Edward Fonyuy and Prof Daniel Lantum. ‘Nso Traditional Orders and Etiquette’ is handled by Mzeka Nzegha Paul and ‘The Political Organization of the Nso Paramouncy from 1970 to 2010’, by Sakah J. Tatah. ‘Ngon-Nso Cultural Festival 2010: A Scientific/Literary Appreciation and Appraisal’ is a contribution by Dr. Faay Woo Bamfen’. Grace Bonglamonyuy Lafon writes on the topic: ‘Hiding the Umbilical cord: For Women Only’. The exploits of Milano Kumbo Sports Academy, flag bearers of sports in Bui Division are recounted by its Executive President Mbenkum Roland Kiven. Some poetry is thrown in for good measure by the young and dashing Mirabel Fonyuy aka Myra.
Bui Community Radio (BCR) which has become a celebrity in its own right in Bui Division takes up the whole of the back page of the publication to advertise itself. In its own words, it “has 450 000 listeners in Bui, Donga Mantung and parts of Noun, Ngoketunjia and Mezam”.
Nonetheless, the magazine has some weaknesses which the editors would do well to examine and rectify. These include the fact that its pages are not numbered and it has no contact details just in case a reader wants to get in touch. This is regrettable because spontaneous reactions from Nso people and well wishers in the diaspora, for example, might want to support the venture by either contributing towards the next edition of Ngon-Nso, or even going further to ensure that the Nso community worldwide has a permanent periodical magazine to report on their events and in the process, mirror and propagate Nso culture.
Despite these shortcomings, the publication is worth acquiring and keeping. It is more than just a magazine. It is a photo album. Magazines are read and then put away. Photo albums are looked at and then returned to often as a means of reconnecting with the past and reliving the good old days.
Beri ven feyi. Abeni.
Thanks a lot. See you.