The Bamileke People of Cameroon

On our culture segment this week, we will be taking you out of Nigeria to a nearby country, here in West Africa.

This country is a neighboring country to Nigeria as they share border, there is every tendency that both countries to an extent could also share or have some similarity of culture and that country is Cameroon.

Dowelling down to one of the main cultural group in the country which is popularly known as Cameroon Grasslands but the original name is BAMILEKE that sounds like a Nigerian Yoruba tribe name but any how you want to pronounce it is fine, just the idea is needed.

This people called Bamileke originated from the northern part of the country called Mbam and can be traced to Egypt, they majorly settled in Bamum after they were invaded in the 17th Century. This tribe still remains umbrella to many other sub ethic groups within the environs including some recently settled foreigners (Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, etc.) the regions are grouped into 123 North-west regions, 106 in western region and 6 in south-west region.

The structure of their political system stems from the village head to council of elders which is called fon or fondom, elected by his predecessor who is a powerful member of the extended family in the community. The village chief remains the highest judge of the land and he is in charge of the all lands in the village.

Most of these people are farmers by profession, some focus on the rearing of livestocks like goats, chickens while others grow maize, yams, peanuts among others with a division of labour between the male and female counterpart. The male usually helps in the clearing of land while the female focuses on planting and harvesting. Some of these people also practice hunting as a profession.

The creation of a trade route connecting the seaport of Douala to trans-Saharan trader like Hausa and Fulani shows that the economy system of Bamileke was a standard one because in 17th century there were trading between this people and Douala with both Dutch and Portuguese traders.

In addition, their creativity in art craft is something to write about, where masks and statue majorly representing the Fon are carved with a decorated beadwork in a particular complex and migration pattern peculiar to the Bamileke people. It is an art form that is highly personal in that no two pieces are alike and are often used in dazzling colors that catches the eye.

On the note of belief, these people acknowledge a supreme god called Si and also believes in ancestral spirit which is no longer in practice in modern day. The Bamileke speak a semi-Bantu language and are related to Bantu people. Eleven dialects can be identified with the people of Bamileke with some variants of Ghomala.

OLUWASEUN AFOLABI

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