about us

The Bamum, sometimes called Bamoum, Bamun, Bamoun, or Mum, are a Grassfields ethnic group located in now Cameroon. In 2018, the Bamum peoples accounted for about 4% of the country's population. The Kingdom of Bamum covers approximately 7,300 km.70  The Kingdom of Bamum was surrounded to the north by the territory of Cameroon, from the west and south-west the kingdom's boundary touches the River Nun while the Rivers Mape and the Mbam surround it to the east.
Bamum, speaking a language that is often used as a lingua franca and belongs to the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo family. Their kingdom, with its capital at Foumban in the high western grasslands of Cameroon, is ruled over by a king (mfon) whose position is hereditary within one of the exogamous patrilineal lineages. The mfon rules with the help of his queen mother

Our History

The first mfon, Nchare, and his followers are believed to have come from the territory of the neighbouring Tikar people early in the 18th century. Settling among the Bamileke people and among other Tikar, Nchare proclaimed himself king and established his palace at Foumban. The 11th mfon, Mbuembue, was the first to enlarge the kingdom, and, following an attack by the Fulani in the early 19th century, he fortified Foumban with a surrounding wall and ditch.
The 16th mfon, Njoya (reigned c. 1895–1923), became the most celebrated of all the Bamum kings. Familiar with writing in Arabic script from his contact with the Fulani and Hausa peoples, Njoya in about 1895 invented a system of writing with 510 pictographic characters. This he revised six times, the seventh system being a syllabary of 83 characters plus 10 numerals. With the help of his scribes Njoya prepared a book on the history and customs of the Bamum, which has been published in a French translation. He also had made a map of his country, a religious book, and a book on medicine and local pharmacopoeia. In 1912 he established the first of 47 schools to teach the Bamum reading and writing in his sixth script, and in 1913 he commissioned a member of his court to prepare a printing press using it. In 1920, annoyed by his troubles with the French colonial administration that was to depose him in 1923, Njoya destroyed the type, which had been cast by the lost-wax method, and closed his schools. Njoya was converted to Islām in 1918, and it is estimated that more than half of the Bamum have become Muslims.
Njoya built a beautiful new palace, established what was in effect a museum, and was a patron of beadworkers, brass casters, weavers, dyers, and other craftsmen. His palace contained 300 looms and six dye pits with different colours, some of the dyes for which Njoya himself discovered. The arts flourished under his royal patronage.

The Bamum are noted craftsmen. The men do embroidery, weaving, leatherwork, wood carving, ivory carving, metalwork, and blacksmithing, and the women make pottery. Both men and women cultivate the land. The Bamum are sedentary farmers who do some fishing but little hunting. Their principal crops are corn (maize), millet, cassava, and sweet potatoes.
They believe in a supreme god who creates children, and they practice ancestor worship. Bamum doctors practice divination by interpreting the earth spider’s manipulation of marked leaves.

What We Believe In

The Bamum traditional religion placed great emphasis on ancestral spirits which were embodied in the skulls of the deceased ancestors. The eldest males of each lineage had possession of the skulls of deceased males. When moving a diviner must find an appropriate place to hold the skull. Despite these efforts some men's skulls remained unclaimed and their spirits are deemed restless. Ceremonies are thus done to placate these spirits. There is also respect for female skulls, but the details are less documented.
They also believed women made the soil fruitful, thus women did the planting and harvesting. Masks and representations of the head also had importance. In modern times, many Bamum are Muslim or Christian. King Ibrahim Njoya himself converted to Islam then to Christianity and then back to Islam and then died a Christian. He is said to have disliked abstaining from polygamy when Christian, and from alcohol when Muslim, so ultimately split the difference toward the end.

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Political Structure

The Bamum political activities centered around the king and the king's palace. The palace was structured around the officers of the king and the people that wished to visit the king. This led to the capital of the Bamum Kingdom forming, Foumban. The surrounding villages then worshiped and followed the king as their leader.

As the kingdom developed slowly over the years, a main factor of society was the agricultural farms near the villages. This created an environment of cooperative ideology, through teamwork when it came to handling the work on the farms. Slaves and war captives were used to supply a labor force for farms of kingdom officials and other title holders.

Our Organisation

The Bamum kingdom's population used secret societies. One society, the ngiri, was for princes. Another, the mitngu, was for the general populace regardless of social status. The mfon recruited most of his retainers from twins and the sons of princesses.

The king of Bamum was known as the mfon, a title shared by Tikar rulers. The mfon engaged in large-scale polygamy giving rise to a proliferation of royal lineages. This led to the palace nobility growing rapidly.

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