05.12.2008 - 05.12.2008
“Erik, where are we going? I need to go to Tangoh for the announcements from the King Makers”
“Can we stop in Baba? It is their market day”
“No. I cannot be late. I promise to come back to Baba on the next market day.”
Erik was the driver of a motor bike and Erik and I had been visiting rural schools in the neighbouring villages all morning. It had been raining and we were covered in mud and dust from head to foot. I was cold from the constant exposure to the rain, tired and sore from the long hours on the motorbike.
We slipped and slid though the mud roads and deep water mud puddles.
“Now I understand why you wore your Wellington boots”
Erik straddled the bike and paddled through a puddle with the water lapping over his ankles, pushing the bike through the puddle.
“Should I get down and walk? It may be faster?”
“No. Stay on the bike. Look, someone has fallen.”
We drove past two people picking up their motorbike.
Eventually we stopped at a small junction with a market place and a few palm wine bars. I looked around me and hesitated to climb off the bike.
“Is this it?”
“Are you sure?”
So I climbed off the bike and approached the men sitting in the nearby palm wine bar.
“Is this where the celebrations are meant to be taking place?”
“Am I late? Have I missed it?”
“No you are not late. It will start soon”
“Soon” could be anything from 10 minutes to 2 hours, so I shrugged and turned to Erik.
“OK. Thank you.”
“Shall I wait? We can wait 10 minutes and then go back.”
“No it is OK. I am going to stay for the entire event”
“Really? How will you get back?”
“I will find some transport”
“It is not that easy here”
“Don’t worry I will manage”
“Call me if you want me to come and collect you”
So I sat at the palm wine bar, drank palm wine and waited. My neighbour turned to me.
“It is very unusual to see foreigners make the effort to come here to Tangoh and to sit with the locals”
I looked around me wondering how to get back to the centre of the village many miles away and understood why.
“Well I have been in Bamunka for almost 1 and a half years and this is the first time that I have been here.”
“Are you working in Bamunka?”
“Yes. At the computer place opposite the police post”
“That is great”
I sipped my palm wine and watched a car churn its way through the mud, deepening the already deep holes in the road. I watched the suspension of the over laden car bump precariously against the road and is it reared and rolled across the road. Now I understood the high number of vehicle break downs along the road.
“This road is really very bad.”
My neighbours agreed.
“You should come and fix it for us”
I stared at them in disbelief.
“What? Why don’t you fix it? I only help people who help themselves”
Tangoh is one of the first locations of the village of Bamunka. Bamunka originated from the migration of a group of people from the Tikari tribe from the North of Cameroon. Bamunka was founded when they settled in Tangoh and as such Tangoh is the first market place and the location of the first palace. As such Tangoh is at the heart of the annual festivities.
“Look they are coming.”
“Where? How do you know?”
“Look at the long pole”
The procession was made up of the secret society of the King Makers in the midst of whom walked a juju (masquerade) and followed by the secret society of the Nghumba. They walked from the secret and sacred forest which was forbidden to all apart from members of the secret societies. I understood that there was a cave in the forest which no man apart from the members of the secret societies could enter.
“Why are they called secret societies? They are not secret, I know who they are?”
“They are secret because you don’t know what they do. No-one knows apart from members of the society.”
The King Makers stood on the mound in the middle of the market. The juju stood amongst them. The Ngumba stood in a semi-circle behind them.
The secret societies of the King Makers and the Ngumba are the most senior secret societies in the village. When a Fon disappears (dies) the King Makers will appoint the new Fon and subsequently acts as advisors to the Fon. The Ngumba is the highest authority in the land and acts as the supreme court and the highest judge.
One of the King Makers stepped forward and made the first announcement. He spoke in the Bamunka dialect, which I do not speak, so I had to rely on summarised translations from a later date.
“Bush fires are banned.”
The other King Makers whispered to him, and he made the second announcement.
“Immoral behaviour and jay walking is banned.”
Between each announcement, the other king makers whispered in his ear.