The term "Compound Cluster" will be used to refer to a collection of compounds whose inhabitants act as a unit for certain purposes. To my knowledge, there was no word in the Mambila language which refers specifically to such a cluster. The inhabitants of a cluster are usually referred to as the inhabitants of a named place, the named place being the area of the hamlet in which the cluster is to be found.
The constituent compounds, as the name implies, are usually in close proximity one to the other. I would estimate that the greatest distance separating any two compounds of the same cluster would be from 150 to 200 yards. In most cases, clusters are much more compact.
Chart X, at the end of this section, shows in graphic form the range in size of clusters in terms of the number of constituent compounds. Out of the total of 21 compound clusters in Warwar, 17 are made up of from 2 to 3 compounds. The smallest includes only 2 while the largest cluster is composed of 5 compounds.
Chart XI, at the end of this section, shows the range of population for all of Warwar clusters. The average population per cluster is 22. A breakdown of this figure gives the following averages: 5 unmarried men, 5 married men, 5 unmarried women, and 7 married women per cluster. The fact that there is a ratio of 7 married women to 5 married men should not be taken to mean that the incidence of polygyny is anywhere near the order that these figures would imply. Women, as well as men who have at one time been married, or have borne children, are here classed as married females, even if they were at the time of the census single. Many of the women classed as married are single at the present, either having returned to the compounds of their own kinsfolk after an unsuccessful marriage, or being past the childbearing age and being unable or unwilling to remarry after a divorce or the death of a spouse. There are more women in the above two categories than men.
60 out of a total of 89 compounds in Warwar form a part of a cluster. Most of these which do not, are somewhat isolated geographically, that is are at quite a distance from the nearest compound. A few are located fairly near to a cluster but do not form a part of it. More will be said about this at a later state in this section. It should, however, be mentioned here that there are no clusters in one part of Tiket. This area is about four miles from the main body of the hamlet. The 9 compounds located there are not built as near one to the other as is the case for the majority of compounds in the parent settlement. The residents consider themselves to be members of Tiket, and only temporarily located at such a distance from most of their fellow hamlet-dwellers.
The head of the component compounds of a cluster are usually kin. The genealogies given at the end of this section show the type of relationship existing between all of the compound heads, whose compounds for a part of a cluster, with the other heads of compounds in their cluster. The ties linking compound heads whose compounds form a part of a cluster are found to be agnatic, uterine, mixed cognatic and affinal.
|4 clusters whose compound heads are all related by agnatic ties that is|
|4 clusters whose compound heads are all related by agnatic ties, that is:||19%|
|1 cluster whose compound heads are all related by uterine ties, that is:||5%|
|10 clusters whose compound heads are all related by mixed cognatic ties, that is:||47%|
|1 cluster whose compound heads are all related by affinal ties, that is:||5%|
|1 cluster, some of whose compound heads are related by mixed cognatic ties, while one is related to the other by affinal ties, that is:||5%|
|1 cluster, of which 2 of the compound heads are related by mixed cognatic ties, while 1 is a stranger to both of the others, that is:||5%|
|1 cluster is made up of 2 heads related by agnatic ties, another is related to them by affinal ties, while a 4th is a stranger to the three, that is:||5%|
|2 clusters in which live two compound heads who are strangers one to the other, that is:||9%|
If we turn to the genealogies, we see that some of the compound heads who claim to be related by other cognatic ties cannot, in fact, trace all the steps of their descent from a common ancestor. As they do not differentiate those who are able to trace such descent and those who cannot, I have followed their practice and not differentiated the two.
Most compound clusters are made up of a core of male cognates, with their wives and children. Other accretions, such as were mentioned in the discussion of households and compounds, are of course also common.
Is the position of a compound head who is a stranger to the heads of the other compounds of his cluster a difficult one? I think not. The reason that cases of this type are so rare is that a man desiring to shift his residence would be more likely to go to a place in which he had kin to build his new compound. Most of the men who decide to move to a new hamlet do not move into another hamlet of the same village, in which they have been living, but rather choose a new village. As most persons whom a Mambila is likely to know well in other villages are kinsmen of one sort or another, he is more likely to settle with kin than with strangers.
The Mambila structure allows for mobility on the part of its male members. That is, men may move away from the hamlet in which they are living and settle elsewhere. However, the analysis of the composition of the compound clusters of Warwar shows us that the majority of Compound Heads are residing in the same hamlet as did their father.
I regret that I have no information on the length of time and/or the number of generations in which the various compound clusters have been in existence. My impression is that there is frequent fission. As a rule, siblings remain together either in the same compound or cluster, but the children of siblings, when their fathers have dies, and they have reached maturity, will split off. The sons of one father will probably remain in the grandparental cluster while the children of the other siblings will form a cluster of their own.
Now let us turn to the more frequently found relationships between compound heads who are members of the same cluster. 14 (23%) live in a cluster in which one or more of their siblings are also compound heads. There are 3 cases of mother's brother's sister's sons heading compounds in the same cluster. This last category accounts for 6 men; 5 men are living with either a mother's brother's son or father's sister's son. 6 compound heads are living in clusters with compound heads to whom they can claim no relationship. The rest of the compound heads live in clusters, with other compound heads, in which either their ties to the others are unique or distant.
Each compound cluster is said to have a Head. There is no specific Mambila term for this office. If a man wishes to refer to the Head of his cluster, he may use the term "Nor Talli" but, as we have seen before, this word means "Big Man" and may refer to either the Head of a compound, cluster, the elders of a hamlet, or a village. It may also refer to any old man, whether or not the speaker is a member of the same local group, as the man to whom he is referring. As in the case of the compound, the oldest male resident is automatically the head, irrespective of his kinship affiliations to the other members or his ability. The characteristics which were listed as increasing or decreasing the compound head's authority vis-à-vis the dwellers of his compound, are equally influential in the case of the cluster head. We find that more frequently in clusters than in compounds there are 2 or more males of roughly equivalent age. It is more difficult for a cluster Head to exercise authority within his cluster if one or more members are but slightly his juniors. The cluster head settles disputes between inhabitants of different compounds in the same cluster. Usually, other elders, both from within the cluster and from without, attend the hearing. The methods of reaching a decision are the same as for disputes between residents of a compound, hamlet, or village. The cluster head acts as the voice of public opinion.
The cluster head has the further function of representing the members of his local group in disputes that they may have with residents of other clusters of the same hamlet. If a man in cluster A has a disagreement with a man from cluster B, the resident of A will go and report it to his cluster head; B may do likewise. The head of A will go to the head of B and the two will discuss the matter. Later, a hearing will be held before both heads, the disputants being allowed to state their case. Anyone in the audience may give an opinion. The heads of both the clusters will attempt to measure public opinion and, by so doing, come to a joint decision which will be considered just by the community as well as by both contending parties. The sanctions that they are able to wield do not differ from those used by a compound head, that is the mobilising of public opinion against the person refusing to accept their judgement.
Disputes between residents of a cluster are frowned upon by the other members. There is normally an attempt to settle the dispute as soon as possible. There is less urgency in the case of the disputants living in the same cluster but different compounds than for disputants who live in the same compound. As the scale of the smallest segment in which two disputants share membership increases, less pressure is brought to bear upon them for restoring peaceful relations. It is possible for two persons residing in the same cluster to remain on bad terms for a long period, but this would be impossible if they were residents of a small local group such as a compound or household. In spite of the possibility of such disputes being allowed to continue without fatal effects on the cluster organisation, attempts are made to settle it by a hearing before the cluster head as soon as practicable. Fighting between individual members of a cluster or between all the male members is believed to bring about supernatural punishment on the cluster. Their crops would not ripen, children would not be born, etc. If A and B have a dispute, it should be settled peacefully; never should they resort to force, nor should A recruit the men of his compound to attack either B or B's compound. If he did, the entire hamlet would turn against him.
The male members of a cluster often eat together. All the men may go to one or the other of the compounds making up the cluster and have their wives send food to them there. The food is shared by all present. There is no regulation that all men must eat together.
Visiting is frequent among men residing in a cluster. Indeed, contact is so constant that greetings are dispersed with, being only given to visitors from other clusters. The reason is certainly not lack of courtesy but rather that a man from the same cluster is not considered a visitor when he comes into one of the compounds from his own cluster.
The men of a cluster co-operate in much the same way as do members of a compound, but not as frequently. It has already been mentioned that women tend to co-operate less than do men. This becomes more evident on the cluster level than on the level of the compound. All the men of a cluster are often seen working together. It is rare to observe all of the women of the same unit doing so. Women living in a cluster may help each other, but it would be more likely that one would help one other, rather than all the women of the cluster turning out to help one of their fellow residents. Women are said to give assistance out of friendship to each other while men say that they do so because they live together.
Co-operation among men in a cluster takes the form of help in farm-work, building houses, and other tasks for which the manpower in the compound alone does not suffice. When a man needs more assistance than he can get from the fellow inhabitants of his compound, he will first turn to those of his cluster. There are at least three reasons for this: Firstly, the potential helpers are nearer at hand; secondly, fellow-cluster members are less likely to refuse. Such aid is given on a reciprocal basis. A man would hesitate to refuse, for the person he refuses to help today may in turn refuse to assist him when in need. Thirdly, there is a value placed in aiding one's neighbours; fellow residents of a cluster are said to be very close neighbours.
Interaction or co-operation in the ritual sphere is frequent between male residents of a compound cluster. Ritual paraphernalia, such as masks, horns, and whistles are individually owned by senior men. But it is the younger men who, on account of their greater physical vigour, wear the mask and blow the horns during the rituals.
Whistles may be blown by either their owners or younger men. A senior man will choose a young man to use his mask or blow his horn from among the young men in his cluster. A senior may lend a mask or a horn to a young man from another compound cluster, but he would only do so if there were no junior male from his own cluster who wished to use it for the rite. The rites in which these objects are used are rites performed by the hamlet or village, as a whole, and are not confined to members of a compound or cluster. Their aim, as for most Mambila rituals, is to ensure the fertility of the soil and of women living in the local group, to defend the local group against witchcraft and assure peace. Medicines are sometimes made which are said to benefit the cluster as a unit; these medicines might be made if there had been much illness, if the women had not recently given birth to children or if many new-born children had died. In fact, rites of this type may be performed for the benefit of the cluster after any disasters.
It would be a mistake to regard the mutual aid and interaction so frequently found in clusters as dependent on kinship bonds. Investigation elicited the information that such aid is given to all co-residents whether kinsfolk or not. No differentiation in granting aid is made between strangers and kin within the confines of a cluster. A stranger will interact neither more or less with the other residents of the unit than will those who share a kinship tie as well as ties resulting from co-residence. Equally a man will interact more with a stranger residing in the same cluster as himself than he will with a kinsman living in another cluster. Several informants have told me that, if a kinsman living outside the cluster and a stranger from their own cluster asked for help at the same time, they would feel obliged to help the stranger. The one exception to the above-mentioned norm is that of a sibling or parents. If a sibling or parent, either male or female, and irrespective of his domicile, should ask for assistance, it should be granted even if his demand conflicts with prior commitments. The sibling and parental ties are of the strongest and are reinforced by supernatural sanctions to ensure mutual aid and co-operation.
It is quite common for males living in a cluster to help a fellow resident with the accumulation of bridewealth. The contribution may be small. Such help would rarely be given by persons living in a different cluster from that of the groom.
The observations of the activities of young children may give us a key to the manner in which the habits of co-operation and the feeling of unity in a cluster are ingrained in males. Compound clusters are usually somewhat isolated one from the other. To go from one to another necessitates going through high grass or along a narrow path. Small children are warned not to stray into the grass for fear of snakes, animals, or getting lost. Therefore from a very early age children confidently proceed from one compound of a cluster to another, but as a rule rarely go out of the cluster unless accompanied by an adult or older child. Children living in a cluster are frequently seen together playing and this association is carried on in the performance of tasks allotted to them by their elders. The above applies to both boys and girls. The habit of relaxing, playing and working in common acquired in childhood persists when male members of a cluster reach adult status. Marriage being virilocal, the girls move away from the cluster in which they have taken up habits of co-operation. This is why, as a rule, men in a local group co-operate more than do their female counterparts. Before abandoning this subject, I must mention that it is usually the case that small boys co-operate more easily than do girls of the same age; this is brought out most forcibly in the observation of children of both sexes at play. Let us imagine a hypothetical situation: three boys ranging in age from 6 to 10 are playing with a like number of girls of about the same age. Suddenly, in play, the boys begin wrestling with the girls. The girls usually run away. If one is caught, her playmates will not come to her rescue. But if a girl catches a boy, weaker than herself, his friends will come to his aid and overcome the girl, she being along and unaided. This digression was made to show that habits of co-operation are early developed in males, but to a much lesser degree in females.
As was mentioned earlier, only 2/3 (68%) of all the compounds of Warwar form a part of a cluster. This leaves 32% (28 compounds) which are not a part of such an aggregate. These I shall call isolated compounds. Nine such compounds are located in a small settlement of persons whose origin is the hamlet Tiket. These people are said to be living 'on the farms' by the Tiket residents. They have houses kept for them in the hamlet and very often return there, that is to Tiket, when the period of heavy farm work has been completed. Their homes in Tiket are all in compounds which are in turn a part of a compound cluster. Therefore it may be said that we can classify those individuals living on the farms as being members of a cluster, even though for a part of the year they live in isolated compounds. Eliminating them from our reckoning would give us only 24% of the compounds in the village being classifiable as isolated compounds. It might appear to be unexpected to find such a large number of isolated compounds in view of the value placed by the Mambila on co-operation. Obviously, one finds that members of an isolated compound interact less frequently with residents of other compounds that do persons residing in a compound that forms a part of a cluster. There are possible explanations for this seeming contradiction but, before giving them, I shall give some information on the five isolated compounds that are to be found in the hamlet of Ndiel (See Sketch-map III, at the end of this section).
The head of this compound has a senior sibling, head of one of the two Man, living in the hamlet. In his compound resides his wife and a young male; the latter is distantly related to the head. The head is a very important man ritually, being one of the two persons in Warwar who is able to stop fighting with ritual sanctions to back up his peace-making. At first, I thought that it was because of his ritual position that he lived in isolation, but I later found that another man had the same powers and lived in a cluster; therefore this could not be the reason. He told me that he liked his present compound and that is why he lived there. His compound is about a quarter of a mile closer to his farms than his older sibling's compound; he is on the very best of terms with his sibling and, to my knowledge, there has never been any dispute between them.
This compound lodges the head, his wife and his maternal half-sibling who is about 10 years old. The head has no close relatives in Warwar. He spent most of his early life in another village, leaving Ndiel with his mother when she divorced his father. He is much more interested in the acquisition of money than are most of Warwar men. He goes off on numerous trading journeys. His compound is not more than 75 yards away from his nearest neighbour. No reason was given for his compound not being a part of the nearby cluster; the probable reason is that his values are somewhat different, namely his interest in money and that he has not resided in the village for a very long time.
The Head has no close kin in other compounds of the hamlet. He is said to be a member of one of the Man in the hamlet, but is unable to trace descent to the founder. The compound is inhabited by three men and five women; two of the men are married. When asked why he did not choose to live in a cluster, he said that he liked the site of his present compound and did not wish to move. I could find no history of disagreement or disputes with other residents of the hamlet.
The Head's closest living kinsman, his father's brother, lives in the same hamlet. The latter's compound is only about 50 yards away from this compound. The Head of this compound's father was captured by the Fulani and taken to Banyo, where was born. He is both socially and physically isolated from the rest of the community in that he has become a follower of "Fulani fashions", including Islam. He does not wish to live with his kinsmen, he says, for they practise pagan rites. Not only are his values different from those of his neighbours in the realm of religion, but also in other spheres: he is the only able-bodied man in the village who does not farming. He earns his living by trading.
The Head lives with his wife and 5 children. He has 2 younger adult siblings living in the hamlet. His compound is about 3/4 of a mile from the main body of the hamlet. It is set out on his farms. The only reason which he gave for living in such an isolated position is that he was nearer to his farm by so doing. No record of disputes was obtained. Just before I left Warwar a male kinsman of his, not a sibling, started building a compound next to his. This compound will therefore no longer be isolated.
One of the isolated compounds is 3/4 of a mile, and the other 1/4 of a mile away from its nearest neighbours. The rest are very much closer, perhaps only 100 or 150 yards away. In the first two cases, the compounds are situated closer to the farms of the owner than would be the case if the owners lived with the body of their kin. This may be one reason why the heads have chosen to live in isolation. There must be others but I was unable to discover them. Two heads of isolated compounds, the heads of compound 24 and 16, have different values than those of the majority of the population. To them, the advantage that they surrender in being able to recruit easily a larger labour force than is possible within the confines of their own compound from their cluster is outweighed by the greater freedom of action that they themselves gain by living in an isolated compound. They are much less frequently called upon for help than would be the case if they lived in a cluster. I have only a clue why the Head of the compound No.19 lives in isolation; I know that in the past he was often ill, so he may have moved into a relatively isolated place in order to avoid being bewitched. He never admitted that was true, nor did anyone else ever mention this reason to explain why his compound was not incorporated into a cluster. It may be of course that, in the past, the Heads of the isolated compounds moved away from their kinsmen on account of a dispute or illness and that they have remained apart, even after the dispute has been forgotten.
Other than the reason above, and those which emerged from the brief analysis of individual isolated compounds, I know of none which might lead to a man leaving a group of kinsmen and building a compound in isolation, but in the same hamlet as the one in which he formerly lived.
It is probable that isolated compounds did not exist before the area was pacified by the European occupation, but not having investigated this question, I cannot state this categorically.
|Number of Clusters||2||3||4||5|
Sketch Map III
Sketch Map no IV
Sketch Map V
Sketch Map VI
The term for hamlet in the Warwar dialect is Unguwe. Warwar is made up of four hamlets. The names and populations of each is given in Table XIII below; the sketch map will be found on page 154.
|Male Pop.||Female Pop.||Total Pop.||Compounds|
All but one of the hamlets are comparatively compact settlements. That is, the greatest distance from one compound in a hamlet to another which is the furthest away in the same hamlet will rarely exceed 3 miles. Tiket is the exception to this rule. 9 compounds with a population of 40 persons are located about 4 to 5 miles away from the main settlement. The reason given for this dispersal is accessibility to farms. The persons living in the daughter-settlement work plots near the area in which they live. In order to go from the main settlement to these plots, one must cross the river which during the height of the rainy season is a hazardous undertaking. Therefore, by living where they do, they are able to save energy during the heavy farming season, and also avoid the risk of wading through a deep river. The daughter-settlement is considered to be an integral part of the parent settlement. Though 21% of all the members of the hamlet live "on the farms" this fact seems to have brought about no major structural modification in the hamlet. During the periods when all the hamlet members unite for corporate activity, the people living "on the farms" return to the main settlement and reside there. There are no discernible signs of fission in this situation.
The 2 largest hamlets, Ndiel and Tiket, are the more important, not only in virtue of their greater size, but also because the two sacred groves of the village are located within their confines. All the more important rituals take place in these two hamlets. Tigul and Tscharl, though in other ways independent of Tiket, and Ndiel, are nonetheless dependent on the latter for their spiritual welfare. Tigul comes to the grove located in Ndiel, and Tscharl comes to that of Tiket for the majority of the important rites. When we discuss the village, we shall find that only at very rare intervals does the village as a whole unite in ritual, and that then the rites most commonly take place in the grove located in Tiket.
In the Warwar dialect the term for hamlet-head is Kassala. This term is probably derived from the Fulfuldo word "Kachella", meaning "chief slave". The Mambila do not recognise this meaning, saying that the terms means "Big Man of the Hamlet". The office of Kassala is a recent innovation. The Mambila say that prior to the coming of the Fulani into the area, they had no political chiefs, Kassala or any other titled officials. The fact that the term used for hamlet head is most probably derived from a Fulani word bears this out.
I do not know whether the office of Kassala was instituted among the Mambila by the Fulani before the advent of Europeans or not. It is possible that some Mambila villages were already under the control of the Fulani before the European invasion and that they, the Fulani, created the office, but I do not believe that this was the case in Warwar. It is more probable that, when the British set up the system of Indirect Rule, the Fulani, having been given the task of governing the area, established the office of Kassala for administrative convenience.
The assignment of the office to the oldest male residing in the hamlet fits into the Mambila value system, which specifies that, all things being equal, it is the oldest man who should speak for the group. Should the oldest man in a hamlet be too weak, or infirm, to carry out all the duties going with the office, he may appoint a younger man to act as his deputy. The deputy may act for the Kassala on all occasions, or only perform some specific duties as directed by the office-holder. The deputy need not be the second oldest man, but often such a person is appointed.
The Kassala as a rule is the oldest resident of the hamlet, but if a man had just settled in the hamlet and he was the oldest, when the Kassala died he would probably be passed over at the time when a new Kassala was named. When I asked my informants whether a very recently settled man might be named Kassala, they said "yes" rather hesitantly, on condition that he had shown intention to remain permanently in the hamlet.
The office is given for life. There is no way known to impeach the holder. I imagine that the external authorities would have the power to do so but, to my knowledge, this has never happened.
The Kassala's primary duty is to act as a link in the communication system between the village chief and the hamlet. The chief brings orders or news of new laws from the District Headquarters, which he relays to the four Kassalas in the village, and these pass the news on to the members of the hamlet.
The Kassala is also responsible for the collection of the head tax. All able-bodied adult males are taxed (in 1952-53), the tax was 12/6). The Kassala must see to it that the head of each compound or compound cluster has collected the tax for each of the male residents of his unit. The Kassala then hands over the total amount collected to the chief, who is in turn responsible for the tax to be brought to the District Headquarters.
If the Administration orders communal work to be done, the chief informs the Kassala and the latter must see that the labour force is organised within their hamlets. If a path is to be cleared, one half of the task is allotted to Ndiel and Tigul, and the other half to Tiket and Tscharl. The Kassala of Ndiel and Tigul then further subdivide the task apportioned to them into two equal parts, one for Ndiel and one for Tigul.
The Hamlet Head is also expected to keep the peace within his hamlet. The Administration expects him to 'settle' minor disputes and have those of major importance taken to the Native Authority Court.
Finally, the most onerous task devolving upon a Kassala is to see that his hamlet brings a specified amount of food to the Rest House for purchase by Europeans who are visiting the village, or when officials of the N.A. are touring the area. Each hamlet is expected to bring about one fourth of the required food. The Government has fixed prices at which the various types of foodstuff are to be sold to visiting agents of the Administration. These prices are considerably below market prices. This is particularly true in respect to chickens. For example, the Government has fixed the price of chickens at 2 shillings per head. In the market the smallest full-grown fowl is sold for four or more shillings, the larger once commanding a price up to 16 or 17 shillings. The people are therefore unwilling to bring their fowls to sell at prices below that of the open market. So the Kassala have much difficulty in supplying their hamlets' quota of chickens. Often, in order to make up deficiencies, they must offer fowls of their own.
The Kassala has no sanctions to enforce his orders. In theory, he may turn to the village chief, who might in turn refer to the Administration in order to force persons unwilling to obey the Kassala's orders to do so. In fact, this is never done. It would be difficult to imagine a case in which the hamlet head would call in the much feared Administration against his own people. Orders passed on to the Hamlet Head by the Administration are therefore usually carried out, not from fear of the Head's sanctions, but rather because the people are afraid of being put in jail by the Government if its orders are not obeyed.
The Kassala has a role to play in village as well as in hamlet affairs. Let us turn first to the role of the Kassala in village affairs: being the oldest man of his hamlet, he is the person par excellence to represent it. There are few occasions on which all of the Kassala of the village get together to discuss village affairs, except of course those dealing with acts of the external administration. At these meetings they are briefed by the chief and, after a bit of discussion on the pros and cons of the new ruling, they disband to bring the tidings to their home hamlet. They are not able in this sort of meeting to affect in any way the situation, the law is reported to them and they, in turn, inform the hamlet residents.
There are occasionally said to be hearings called by the Kassala to settle disputes between residents of different hamlets. If a man from Ndiel and a man from Tscharl have disagreement, such a moot might be held. The interested Kassala will come together and hear the case. Any man who is interested may attend and give his opinion. Not having had the opportunity of attending such a hearing, I am unable to state how decisions are finally arrived at, but I believe that, as the case of disputes between members of compounds or compound clusters, the Kassala attempt to voice the sentiments of public opinion in coming to a decision. I am told that often senior men not occupying the office of Kassala may be more potent in influencing public opinion that the Kassala themselves. Finally the oldest Kassala in the village should wield the most influence, according to the ideal pattern.
There are no other occasions upon which Kassala, acting their role of Hamlet Heads, all meet together. Within the framework of the hamlet, the Kassala controls no special sanctions in virtue of his office. As mentioned previously it is said that he may seek the support of the Administration if the people refuse to comply with the orders passed on to him from the Administration. However, this is not done. Though held responsible by the external agencies for keeping the peace within his settlement, he has no sanctions for so doing. Informants are likely to say that his advice should be followed by all because he is the senior male, but many are the times when it is ignored.
The amount of authority wielded by the various Kassala varies enormously. One of the four is usually able to get his way by shouting the loudest. He has a very quick temper and is very easily aroused. The majority of the residents of his hamlet will abide by his requests, for fear that he will be angry at them. Whether or not, when angry, he is said to be able to bewitch persons, I do not know. He appears to get his own way through the sheer power of his voice. Another Kassala is able as a rule to obtain the support of the residents of his hamlet because he is said to be very old and wise. He does not shout but rather explains very lucidly the reasons that have led him to come to his decision, giving the advantages to be gained by the inhabitants following the path that he has chosen and the disadvantages that would follow from their ignoring his advice. He never uses threats nor cajolery. Though his advanced age (he is the oldest man in the village) is often given as the reason for his success as a leader, in fact I believe that it follows from his reputation as a wise man. The other two Kassala in the village are not able to exercise very much authority in their hamlets. They are respected as old men, but their opinions are said not always to be sound. In those two cases, other senior males in the hamlet have more influence than the Kassala himself.
There are no offices other than that of Kassala in the hamlet. Usually, three or four of the men of the hamlet are more influential than the other men and they, in conjunction with the Kassala, cope with those problems that arise within the hamlet, such as accusations of witchcraft, adultery cases, allocated of tasks when communal labour is ordered by the Administration etc.
We shall refer to this group of leading personages in the hamlet as the "Elders". They are called "Nor Talli" by the Mambila. The stability of the group rests on the fact that there are usually at least two members of the group who not only play an important part, but are accepted by all the residents as being members. These are: the Kassala and the second oldest man. In hamlets housing two Man, the Heads of the two groups are said to be the most important men in the hamlet. Other senior males may sometimes act, and be recognised by the population, as being "Elders" and, at other times, not play an active role in the hamlet administration. At any particular time, there may be a marked difference of opinion as to who are the more influential men in the hamlet, defining the most influential as being the "Elders".
During my stay in the field I conducted a small scale enquiry to see whether there was or was not unanimity on who were members of the group that I call the "Elders". The question asked was: "Who are the Big Men of Ndiel? My informants were 22 adult men, all living in the hamlet. One informant gave me two names, while at the other end of the scale an informant gave me the names of seven men. The table given below shows the result of the selection.
No. of votes received:
|A = Kassala, Head of a Man||22||100%|
|B = Head of a Man, 2nd oldest man in hamlet||22||100%|
|C= Third senior male||20||91%|
|D= Fourth senior male||17||77%|
|E = Fifth senior male||11||50%|
|F = Seventh senior male||7||32%|
|G = Sixth senior male||3||14%|
|H = Youngish man: 35 or thereabouts||2||9%|
|I = unmarried men||1||5%|
A and B were chosen by all of my informants. The Kassala was named even though he is one of the two Kassala who was mentioned earlier as being one who wields relatively little influence. The reason that he has so little authority is that B is a very much more strong-willed person and is usually able to get his way in intra-hamlet affairs, even against the opposition of L who, because of greater age, would, if the ideal pattern were strictly followed, have more influence than B. C, who plays a fairly important role in hamlet affairs, was chosen by all but two informants. One of these who did not name him named only two persons as being important men, while the other named three, namely A, B and D. There seems to be widespread acceptance of the fact that the three, if not the four, oldest men in the hamlet are its leading figures. H was chosen by the two informants in spite of the fact that he is quite young. I believe that this was done because he was my mail-runner. It should be noted that both of the persons naming him were residents of his compound cluster and younger than himself. Neither were his kinsmen. His importance might be said to have increased because he was earning money and this increased his prestige, in the eyes of his younger neighbours, but had little effect on the majority of the hamlet dwellers.
One possible reason for F being more frequently named than G - who is F's senior - is that G lives in an isolated compound, that is one which does not form a part of a compound cluster. During the period when farm work is very demanding, he rarely comes into the major part of the hamlet and plays a very small role in hamlet affairs. This enquiry was conducted during the 'busy season'. I suspect that had it been done during the slack season, his and F's positions would have been reversed.
In this hamlet the rank order of the important men, according to the survey, follows the order of seniority fairly strictly. Yet, in other hamlets, where this type of enquiry was not carried out, the results might not have been the same. In all hamlets such an enquiry, I am certain, would have put the two or three oldest men on top of the list, but further down, irregularities might appear, and those in other hamlets might have been more striking than they were found to be in Ndiel.
One of the problems met with in this type of enquiry is to make the person answering the question understand what it means. The aim of the enquiry was to discover who, in fact, were the persons wielding the most authority in the hamlet. The results show with few exceptions, how status is allocated according to the ideal pattern, that is status is dependent upon relative seniority. Empirical observation has made it clear that F is more influential than either D or E, and sometimes even more than C; yet, the results of the enquiry show the contrary. This contradiction may be accounted for in two ways: firstly, my informants may have thought that I was attempting to discover the ideal pattern and, secondly, that the Mambila see the authority structure as being similar to what it would be if the ideal pattern were strictly adhered to. I believe that both factors were important in determining the results.
Another significant result of the same enquiry is that is shows quite clearly that there is no formal theory giving the number of persons that any hamlet should have as member of the Elders group. Some of my informants named only two persons as being Nor Talli, while others gave as many as seven. The distribution of number of choices given by the informants is shown in the table below. The first column shows the number of Elders named; the second, the total times this number of members was given.
|No of Nor Talli named||No. of Informants||Percentage of Total|
It is obvious from these figures that there is no unanimity of opinion as to the number of "Elders" that each hamlet should have. Equally, they reflect the fact that there is never a time when the Elders are marked off from the other senior males of the community. By this, I mean that there is no occasion upon which the Elders as a group play a role that is forbidden to other men in the hamlet.
The Elders meet only when events in the hamlet require such a meeting. Such events might be: disputes between residents of the hamlet who are members of different Man, when work for the Administration has to be allocated among the Man or other similar scale groups in the hamlet, or finally if a catastrophe threatens or has already smitten the hamlet. Catastrophes which might bring about such a meeting are: crop failures, inclement weather over a long period of time, many deaths in the hamlet, a visible decline in the unit's fertility, etc. In these cases the Elders are called together in order that they may discover what is causing the calamity and find a way to remedy the situation.
Intra-hamlet disputes are not frequent, but I had the opportunity of attending a few meetings held to attempt to settle such cases. During such moots all males present are allowed to give their views. Women are allowed to participate if it is a matter concerning them. Usually, the Kassala and the second oldest man were most frequently turned to settle such disputes in Ndiel. Only disputes between members of different Man will bring the Elders of the hamlet together, as each Man is expected to settle disputes between its own members without reference to outsiders. As the Kassala and the next senior male are heads of the two Man in Ndiel, they play leading roles in attempting to settle the dispute, each representing the members of his group. If for some reason, such as illness, the Man head is not able to appear, the hearing is either postponed or the second eldest Man member plays the role of the Man head.
D, F and G, during the slack season, are almost invariably present at Elders' meetings. The other senior men might or might not appear depending upon whether or not they, or their close kin, or neighbours, were involved in the dispute, and whether their time was taken up by other activities.
A brief account will be given of the way a dispute between two residents of the hamlet of Ndiel was treated by the community. The dispute was over a plot of land. The plaintiff was a member of the Man headed by the Kassala. We shall refer to this Man as X, and to its Head as A. The defendant was a member of the Man hereafter referred to as Y, headed by a senior man whom we have called B. The moot was held in the Kassala's compound. The Elders present and their affiliation follow: A (X), B (Y), F (Y). The plaintiff stated his case which, in brief, was that the defendant had a few years ago planted crops on his - the plaintiff's - plot. This plot had been inherited by the plaintiff from his father. When he pointed out to the defendant that his rights were being infringed upon, the latter asked him for permission to use the plot for a few years; the permission was granted. Now the plaintiff said that he wanted to use the land himself and that the defendant refused to agree to give it up. I should add here that disputes over land are rare, and that though the avowed reason for the dispute in this case was a plot of farm-land, the basic cause was another: the plaintiff and the defendant had had a disagreement over a marriage, and when this was settled the plaintiff felt that he had been unfairly treated, so he brought up this case to get his own back.
When the defendant's turn to plead his cause came, he said that his grandfather had lent the disputed land to the plaintiff's father for the latter lived very close to it. When the plaintiff's father died, his son moved away to another part of the hamlet which was at a considerable distance from the plot. The defendant then moved to the immediate neighbourhood of the land. He then asked the plaintiff whether he could use the plot, and the former agreed saying that he no longer had any use for it.
The Kassala then stated that he knew that the plaintiff's father had used the plot, but that he was not sure whether the latter had obtained it from the defendant's grandfather or not. The other Elders were consulted and none could give any further information on this point. B then asked whether there had been any witnesses when the plaintiff told the defendant that he might use the plot again. None were forthcoming, though many men spoke at this time. The consensus of opinion was that the plaintiff should not ask for the land back, even if he had some claim to it. References were made to the previous argument between the two, several persons saying that the plaintiff was bringing up the case only because he was angry at the defendant. As the plaintiff seemed to be adamant, it was finally decided to consult the tarantula, which is one of the most commonly resorted-to oracles. Three weeks later when I left the village, the oracle had not been consulted, and I doubt that it will be. The force of public opinion at this time seems to have acted so strongly on the plaintiff that he seemed to have lost any interest in pressing his claim.
I was struck by the fact that in this case there was a genuine attempt to see justice done, and the senior men tried to find an equitable solution rather than to defend their own kinsmen or neighbour to the detriment of the principles of justice. A man expects his own Man Head to attend any hearing in which he is involved. The former's presence is desired to see to it that no injustice is done at the hearing. It is far from the minds of the Mambila to think that the judgement of an old man will be influenced by ties of kinship or neighbourhood. We must not forget that, in a sense, those conducting a hearing are playing a role that is often also played by super-natural forces; cases which cannot be settled by human beings are referred to the tarantula or to the sasswood poison ordeal. These oracles may also be resorted to as a court of appeal, if a man is not satisfied with the solution proposed by the Elders.
Though moots are conducted in a secular manner, the behaviour of those taking an active part in them are influenced by supernatural beliefs in their actions. Firstly, the ancestors are said to be interested in seeing that justice is done, and any senior man who purposely used a hearing, to gain the end of either himself or one of his kinsmen unjustly, would automatically be punished by them. Secondly, plaintiffs and defendants and witnesses may be asked to take an oath. These oaths are believed to be very potent, and the penalty for swearing falsely is illness or death. It is of course impossible to say categorically that no one ever lies under oath, but I suspect that it is rarely done. I have seen cases in which a defendant pleaded for an excellent defence for himself but, when asked to repeat his statements under oath, refused to do so and admitted his guilt.
As was mentioned previously, the Elders may come together if a disaster threatens or has smitten a hamlet. No such meetings were held during my stay; I was told that those present discuss the crisis in an attempt to find the cause, and also to find out whether a remedy was found for a similar threat in the past. If one of the Elders, or any one in the audience, is able to suggest how such a situation was dealt with in the past, the same remedy will be attempted again.
The Elders may meet when the hamlet is allotted work by the Administration, and the work is to be carried out by groups of smaller scale than the total hamlet. It has already been mentioned that the Administration gives orders to the chief, who then passes on these orders to the four Kassala. They, in turn, divide the job into four equal parts, one for each hamlet.
As a rule, the hamlet as a whole is held responsible for the entire task. If the task is further subdivided, one part is given to each of the descent groups in the hamlet. Generally the job of dividing the task into two equal parts is easy and is done on the spot by the Elders. Difficulty arises when, for example, an uneven number of labourers is required. I attended a meeting when the group was faced with the problem of deciding how to send the required number of men (3) to Gembu, the District Headquarters, to help build a mosque. Each descent group volunteered to send one man, but they said that the other should send the odd man. After much discussion, centering around which of the two descent groups had made the larger contribution to communal labour the past few times it was required, one of the Heads of the descent groups decided that his group would send the odd man. He later told me that he thought that it was unjust that his group should make the sacrifice, but in the interest of hamlet harmony he had agreed. It is worth noting that it is the Kassala himself who agreed to the sacrifice, which bears out the statement made earlier that B is a stronger man than A, in spite of the fact that A is his senior. In this type of meeting, the senior men are expected to advocate to the best of their ability the interests of their own group, but to cede, if refusal were to upset the peaceful relations which are supposed to existing within the hamlet.
The Hamlet is the largest scale unit in which frequent co-operation takes place, though of course less intensively than on the level of the cluster. An individual may expect assistance from his fellow hamlet members in house-building, farm labour, or other tasks which require the recruitment of a large labour force. Most of the working parties observed were composed either exclusively, or primarily, of persons from the same hamlet as the organiser of the party. Out of a chance sample of ten such parties, six included persons from one hamlet only, and that, the hamlet of the organiser. In two cases, the quarters or more of the workers came from the organiser's local group, while the remainder came from either one or two of the other hamlets of the village. One case was observed in which the participants were approximately divided between those who came from the organiser's hamlet and those coming from a neighbouring hamlet, in the same village, simply because the organiser had many friends in the other hamlet and invited them to come. Finally, there was one case in which almost all of the labour was derived from persons living outside the village. The party had come to help the father-in-law of one of its members prepare his fields for planting.
The residents of a hamlet are expected to give each other assistance should they become embroiled in dispute with a resident of another hamlet in the same village. Nowadays, the support is mainly moral; in the past, inter-hamlet fighting was fairly common. The last event of this sort occurred in the '30's: a man from Tiket had insulted a man from Ndiel. The Ndiel man decided to avenge him by attacking Tiket on the following evening. The attack was launched on the compound cluster in which resided the man who had offered the insult. The latter's neighbours came to his rescue, and a fight ensued. It was eventually stopped by a man who has the ritual power to stop all fighting. He later made medicine to 'cool the hearts' of the combatants and to ensure that there would be no other outbreak of fighting. In intra-village engagements the use of knives and spear is prohibited. Only sticks and fists may be used for the aim of the injured group is to regain its honour by punishing the group attacked, but not to kill or permanently injure fellow village residents. When informants discussed these raids they would sometimes say that the attack was made upon the entire hamlet of the person against whom they had a grievance, and sometimes they would say that they were attacking the individual who had sullied their honour and only fought members of their antagonist's hamlet who attempted to come to his rescue.
The male population may act as a unit in performing certain rituals. I am told that if the rain does not fall at the regular time, the tomb of one of the ancestors who had important rain-making medicine is visited by the senior men of the hamlet. Persons from other hamlets are not specifically excluded from the visit, but would probably not take a part, for it is said not to concern them. The hamlet may also make medicine when faced by a series of catastrophes. Again, the effect of the medicine is supposed not to overflow hamlet boundaries. As a rule, each hamlet has members who are able to perform all of the frequently required rituals, and therefore only rarely does an individual turn outside of his local group for ritual help. Occasionally, an art has been lost by all of the hamlets but one. This is the case for the art of circumcision. All the villagers are dependant on one man residing in Ndiel for this service. My informants from other hamlets said that this was not a good thing for they did not like to send their sons outside the hamlet to be operated upon, but it could not be avoided. In the past, each hamlet was reported to have had its own circumciser but they had all died, and only the one in Ndiel remained.
One can say with some justification that the hamlet boundaries likewise demarcate the area in which most leisure-time social action takes place. This is made most obvious if we examine how individuals whose compounds are located on the border of the two hamlets spend their leisure time. In such cases the compound is often closer geographically speaking to compounds which are in the neighbouring hamlet than to compounds in its own hamlet. Nevertheless more intercourse takes place between the members of the marginal compound and the rest of their own hamlet dwellers than with persons from the neighbouring hamlet. Normally, physical distance between compounds plays an important role in determining the rate of interaction but, in the case described above, hamlet ties overlap the barrier of physical distance.
Ties resulting from common hamlet membership may also override those derived from kinship. The following hypothetical case may illustrate how this may come about: a man A lives in Tiket, is the mothers's brother's son of B and has no kin ties with A. In spite of X's kinship with B, as he lives in the same hamlet as A, he must support him in the argument. X will be in an advantageous position in helping to settle the dispute and is expected to try and do so. But should the disagreement lead to a pitched battle, as was frequently the case in the past, X is expected to close ranks with the members of his own hamlet.
Finally, in view of the co-operative and social nature of the hamlet, it is not surprising to learn that fighting is barred between members of a hamlet. Fights have been known to break out within the hamlet, but such behaviour is considered to be very bad. All of those present will do their utmost to stop the fighting.
The village boundary includes not only the area in which the 605 inhabitants live, but also the land which they utilize for the growing of crops, hunting etc. As a rule, the boundaries are well known and boundary disputes between villages are relatively rare.
Warwar shares a boundary with Gembu, Vokude, Mverrup, Yambap, Kabri and Kara. It is only with the latter village that disputes have arisen in recent years over the location of that boundary. The sketch-map on the preceding page shows the plan of the village of Warwar.
Warwar covers an area of between 15 and 20 square miles. Much of the land is of little use to the inhabitants, being steep slopes which were once used for hunting once a year. During the dry season the slopes were burned and small game, mainly rats and other rodents, caught while trying to escape from the flames.
Plots are normally owned by the members of a hamlet in a block. There are some exceptions to this rule. The reason for the exceptions is that a member of a hamlet in the past gave some land to somebody from outside his hamlet; the descendants of the latter now occupy the plots. Several men from Ndiel use plots in a block of land which otherwise was owned exclusively by resident of Tiket. The majority of the cultivated plots are found near the river bottom. The river is a perennial stream, a tributary of the Donga. During the rainy season it overflows, covering the surrounding area with silt. The silt deposit contributes to the maintenance of fertility of the land in spite of frequent cultivation.
In pre-European times, the village was the largest political unit. Villages might ally with one another but this did not imply any loss of sovereignty on the part of the villages concerned. Generally, the alliances were defensive and lasted only a short time. For instance village A might make an alliance with village B in order to get help to attack a third village C which had, at an earlier date, been in conflict with both of them. Alliances of this sort seem to have become more frequent and of larger scale in the late 19th century when the Mambila were faced with a constant threat: slave raids by the Fulani of Banyo.
Whether the Mambila would eventually have formed larger political aggregates in the face of this external threat or not is impossible to say, for in the very early part of the 20th century the Germans invaded the area and brought peace to the Mambila Plateau. The alliances of the past have no significance today.
In the late '20's a British Touring Officer grouped 25 of the villages into what he called 9 "village groups": he reduced the number of village chiefs from 25 to 9. Villages which had had their own chief were placed under the chief of another village. This project was carried out with the aim of simplifying the administration of the area. The contrary has happened: the new policy resulted in much friction, and most of the groups have disintegrated. The Administration has, in some cases, refused certain villages the right to have their own chiefs, even though before the reorganisation they were autonomous. Those villages, which were placed under neighbouring villages and were not at a later date allowed their independence, are not satisfied.
During my stay in the area, I was visited by several delegations from surrounding villages, which asked me to use my influence with the Touring Officer to have their independence restored. When we later discuss the role of the chief, we shall see that in the internal administration of the village the chief plays a minor role, but each village wishes to have its own and not be under one in another village. Otherwise it feels that it has lost prestige.
This fear of losing face vis-à-vis another village helps to explain boundary disputes between villages. It was said earlier that Warwar and Kara had had a long standing and acrimonious dispute over the ownership of a block of farm-land. The Administration has done everything within its power to settle the dispute and has been unable to do so. Neither side is willing to compromise for fear that, should one side offer a compromise, the other village will laugh at them and consider them to be weak. I should add here that neither Warwar nor Kara seem to be suffering from a land shortage and, therefore, either could easily afford to lose this comparatively small block of land.
The village was the largest unit in which law was recognised. By this, I mean that it is the largest group in which dispute were expected to be settled peaceably and in which machinery for that purpose existed. Quarrels should be taken to the Elders and those are expected to provide a solution which the disputants should accept. If for example a man killed a fellow villager, he or his kin were expected to pay compensation to the deceased's kin group. A man who stole from a resident of his village is expected to make restitution if caught, and whether caught or not is said to have been punished by the ancestors for his action. The standard of behaviour required from an individual when interacting with members of other villages was not the same as that required when interacting with members of his own local group. If a man stole from another village than his own, he was more likely to be commended for his bravery than sanctioned for being a thief. Murder too was not sanctioned unless the victim was from the same settlement as the murderer. In other words, acts classified as crimes, if perpetrated within one's own village, were not so defined if performed against residents of another village.
Finally, the use of knives or spears in intra-village fighting was ritually sanctioned, whereas those weapons might be used in fighting against other villages.
Nowadays, crimes are defined by an external authority. Stealing is a crime irrespective of whether or not the thief and victim are from the same village. The Mambila now agree that stealing, even if it be only from outsiders, is a bad thing, but they are much more incensed if the thief steals from a fellow village member than from an outsider. The concept that the village is a unit in which law and custom should be followed is still maintained in the Mambila ethos.
It has been reiterated various times in this paper that, as the size of the social unit increases, the amount of interaction between the members of that unit decreases. It is not surprising to find therefore that there are some villagers who rarely - if ever- interact with some of the other residents of the unit. Such individuals are normally persons who live at a distance from each other, such as at different ends of the village. It is not uncommon to find that certain male inhabitants of the village do not know the names of some of the other male residents.
In the past, as we are told, all the residents of the village would come to the aid of any resident if he were threatened by an outsider. Raids on neighbouring villages might be carried out by a large proportion of the male population of the village in order to try and get back a stolen wife, or to right a wrong perpetrated on a member of the settlement. An injury to one resident was said to be felt by all. There is evidence that some of this feeling remains today. When in 1953 the Touring Officer had given judgement against Warwar in the land dispute of Warwar versus Kara, the whole village population was very angry though the judgement only materially affected the hamlet of Tscharl, since the disputed land was claimed by residents of the hamlet. It was the first and only time that I heard the people talk about the possibility of carrying out an armed raid. Even some of the calmer members of the population in Ndiel became very excited and longed for the old days when they would have been able to kill a few of their enemies. Several friends of mine asked me whether I would lead the attack on Kara and, when I refused, they asked me whether I would be able to persuade the Administration to allow them to carry out such a punitive mission.
The village, as has been mentioned, unites for rituals once or twice a year. Not all the male population comes to the ritual but, whether they are there or not, the benefit to be derived from the performance of the ceremony is passed on to them. Persons from outside the village occasionally come to observe the rites and to drink corn beer, but they are said not to reap any spiritual benefit from attending. It is significant that they are not given the grass shoots on which "medicine" has been made, which are distributed to all of the villagers present. This grass is later placed on the plots which carry guinea corn and is said to assure the fertility of those plots. My informants said that if the grass were given to strangers
to the village, the benefit from all the "medicine" would go outside the village and the local crops would be poor. The visiting strangers are not hindered in any way from observing the ritual, but play no part in it. When the sacrificed meat is eaten, any man may offer a part of his own share to a visitor, but no shares are allocated in the first instance to outsiders.
Apart from the afore-mentioned temporary alliances, villages as such have no formal ties with other villages. However, individuals in any one settlement may and do have many ties with residents in other communities. Since most marriages (68%) are inter-village, a man is likely to have kin in at least some of the neighbouring villages.
Another type of inter-village tie between individuals result from blood-brotherhood. A man with a friend in another village may enter into this relation with the friend, and the two will be considered kin, in spite of the fact that they are known not to share a common ancestor. The obligations of kinship are passed on to the pact-makers' descendants. Occasionally, groups of persons in hostile villages might enter into such an agreement. My informants told me of the case now to be cited: in the past, Warwar and Vokudu were hostile villages and mutual raiding between the two settlements was common. A man from Vokudo came secretly to Warwar to see a friend of his (I enquired whether it might not have been a kinsman and my informants said "no") and try and find a way to end the state of hostilities between the two villages. The two decided to try and persuade some of the Elders to make peace. Both parties exerted their influence and convinced the other Elders of the advisability of their programme. Some of the Elders of both villages agreed to meet on the road half-way between the two villages. They each brought a calabash of palm-wine. "Medicines" were then added to the concoction. All present drank from the cup. After this, the Elders from Vokudu came to Warwar where a goat was beaten to death, cooked and eaten. This sacrifice was repeated in Vokuko. Now all of those who had taken part in the series of rites were said to be kin. Neither they nor their descendants could take up arms against each other. If a man draws blood, even inadvertently, from a blood-brother, he and his family became ill, unless his blood-brother is invited to partake of a sacrifice of a chicken. Only the members of two Man in Warwar had taken part in the rite, and so only members of these two groups were prohibited from fighting against the members of the two Man in Vokudo who had become their blood-brothers. But a man was expected not only not to come to blows, but also to attempt to stop fights between members of his village and his blood-brothers. Therefore this type of group swearing of blood-brotherhood was effective, not only in keeping the peace between those said to be related in that way, but also between the settlements of such kin.
The ties resulting from kinship were useful not only in stopping fighting, once in progress, but also in settling disputes between residents of two settlements before resorting to physical force. For example, if Kara and Warwar had a quarrel, a resident of Warwar might safely go to Kara if he had kin there and act as intermediary. It was said to be the duty of persons with kin in two hostile villages to attempt to arrange a truce or peace between the two groups. It can be seen from this that, as villages as a whole had no formal ties with other villages, these individual ties were extremely important in maintaining or bringing about peace.
Extra-village ties were also valuable to a man who wished to trade. Certain villages specialised in the manufacture of certain articles such as: spears, shields, knives, hoes, fine baskets, masks and other wood-carvings, while a few were noted as being a source of cam-wood. A man who had kin in a village in which there was a speciality would profit by such ties in trading. The father of one of my good friends lived in Mang, a village especially noted for its shields. During his youth, he made several trip to Titon, the village of his mother's kin, where he was able to exchange shields for the speciality of Titon, namely spears. It is difficult at this late date to estimate the scale of inter-village trade. It probably never reached very large proportions, but at the same time it must have been continuous. The villages of the Southern part of the Mambila Plateau do not know how to smelt ore. Those in the North had smiths who know the process. The Southerners were therefore dependant upon the Mambila in the North for their spears and hoes were abundant in the South at all times. We must therefore assume that inter-village trade was common.
Before discussion the market, a few words must be said about the Mambila week. The Mambila, like most of the tribes in this area, have a ten day week. On the tenth day, market day, work with a hoe is prohibited. Farm-work not requiring the use of this tool is permitted, but it is said that it is not a good thing to do serious work on that day.
The market was originally in Tscharl, the hamlet of the chief priest. When the mission-station was built, the missionary asked that the market be moved to a location nearer the station; the chief priest agreed and it was built near Ndiel.
The market is said to belong to the priest, that is the land on which it stands is recognised as belonging to a resident of Ndiel, but the market is said by the people to be the priest's. It is he who must make medicine to see that visitors to the site maintain the peace. I believe that in the past he and his kindred were responsible for its maintenance, but this is no longer the case. I do not believe that the chief priest derived any benefit from the ownership of the market in the past; he does not today. Now, the Government holds the entire village responsible for clearing the site, the maintenance of the stall such as they are, and clearing the paths to the market. These tasks have been broken down into four equal parts, each hamlet being responsible for one part of the required work.
The market is a comparatively new institution. The first one was held about 50 years ago at the instigation of the grandfather or great grand-father of the present chief priest. In spite of its novelty it plays an important role in Mambila life. The market is where one meets outsiders, both Mambila from neighbouring towns, Fulani nomads who have come down to buy maize and guinea-corn or to sell milk, and Hausa peddlers who travel from market to market selling objects of European manufacture and kola-nuts. The cloth, beads, kerosene lamps and other European artefacts owned by the Warwar people are bought in the market.
In certain contexts the market symbolically represents the village. After a women has given birth to a child, she and her husband are taken to the market and, one might say, are introduced to it. They are led around it by one of the elderly men who have proper medicine to perform this act. This is always done on the market-day following the birth of the child. When asked why this is done, the Mambila do not say that they are introducing the parents to the market, but that they are introducing them to the village. In fact, the market is the only place where one is certain to find all of the hamlets represented at any one time except, of course, on the occasion of village-wide ritual. Not only does news from the outside come into the village on Market-day, but it is also an occasion on which village gossip is bandied about. One learns about recent events in the neighbouring hamlets from residents of the hamlet who have come to visit the market.
I believe that in bringing the population of the village together at frequent intervals, the market serves as an important integrative factor in the Mambila village. Only rarely faced with threats from other villages, the village now rarely acts as a unit. This unit of the group is expressed in ritual, but not in working for the Government. As we have said previous, tasks assigned by the Government are equally divided and allotted to the various hamlets.
But the common interest that the whole village shows in its market, the frequent occasions which it given to persons from various hamlets to meet, and the fact that a common bond is felt between persons who share the same holiday and market play an important role in giving the members a feeling of community which might otherwise be lacking.
The village as such has 3 titled officials, excluding of course the Kassala who operate mainly in the context of the hamlet.
Prior to the advent of the Germans, in about 1907, there was no political chief of the village. Today the political head is called European chief, or, in the Warwar dialect, Mbon. Although he is nominated by the village, he is essentially an agent of the Administration and cannot be removed by the residents of the village without the consent of the Administration. As far as I know, no village has even asked for their chief to be deposed.
The first chief was installed by the first German party to visit the village. I have not as yet been able to date this visit accurately, but district records suggest that it was probably about 1907. The Germans named as the chief a man next to whose compound they had pitched their camp. The chief-elect was able to speak fairly fluent Fulfuldo and, at that time, very few Mambila had any knowledge of that language. This was probably the main reason why he was selected for the office, though the Warwar people say that he was chosen because the Germans pitched their camp next to his compound - which would in the eyes of the Mambila, establish a special bond of friendship between the Germans and the chief - and also because the chief was the first to bring corn to the visitors.
There are two different schools of thought as to the method that should be used for selecting a chief: one claims that chieftainship is the property of the Man of the first chief, and that only members of that group should be named to the post. The supporters of this theory are mostly to be found among the descendants of the first chief. The vast majority of the village inhabitants believe that the most suitable man, irrespective of his kinship affiliation, should be selected for the office.
There is some evidence to prove that at first, the chieftancy was felt to belong to the Man of the first chief. When the latter died his full brother's son succeeded to the office. At his death the office was given to a member of another Man. The fourth and fifth chiefs were chosen from still another Man. In 1949, a kinsman of the first chief was given the chieftainship. Unfortunately he was shortly thereafter convicted of soliciting bribes and put in jail; his office was taken away from him by the Administration. The present chief is a paternal half-sibling of the village priest, but not of the original chiefly kindred. More will be said about this official shortly. This arrangement is considered to be ideal by the majority of the Warwar people and may continue upon the death of the incumbents, that is that both village priest and village chief will be members of the same descent group, if not the same person.
It is reported that in the past some chief suggested their own successor. If the senior men of the village agreed with this choice, the person selected by the chief to succeed him might be presented to the Government for appointment. In the majority of cases, the Elders met, shortly after the death of the chief, to decide whom they would present to the Administration as a suitable candidate for the office. I had not the opportunity to attend such a meeting. I was told that the Elders, as well as any one interested, might give their opinion. Normally, only 2 or 3 names are mentioned in the discussion. The suitability of those is discussed and, usually after two or three periods of discussion, the majority agree on one person. The candidate is then taken to Gembu and introduced to the District Head, and Touring Officer if he be present. I was told by the Touring Officer that the candidate proposed by the people is invariably accepted by the Administration. He is given a robe and a turban as a symbol of office.
Usually a young man is chosen for the office: a young man is said to be able to accomplish the tasks required of a chief more easily than an older man. A chief must spend a good deal of his time travelling: he must go to Gembu whenever the District Head calls him. Every 20 days, he has to go to Mbanga to act as a member of the panel of the Native Court. The Elders give several other reasons for nominating a young man: firstly, he will probably have no enemies in the village; secondly, being young, he will probably not attempt to act in an autocratic manner and should he try, he would not have the authority to succeed. A young man may be more easily controlled by the village Elders than a senior man.
Among the qualities most sought for in a chief is honesty. The people seem to fear that the chief will try and cheat them. Perhaps this is a reaction against the last chief who openly took bribes and did, in fact, cheat the villagers. The chief should be able to look after the village's interests. The present chief has been criticised because the last judgement given by the Administration is the already mentioned Warwar-Kara land dispute is considered by the Warwar people to be unfavourable to them. I have also been told that the chief should be able to speak Fulfuldo well, though the incumbent is not as proficient in this language as many of the men of his generation. Finally, they say that a chief should not become conceited after gaining the office.
The chief's duty, as has already been mentioned, is to act as a link in the communication system from the District Headquarters to the villagers. He receives orders from the District Head, Touring Officer, or their agents, and passes these orders down to the Kassala of the hamlets. He sits on the panel of the Native Authority Court in Mbamga. He attends District Council meetings, held at infrequent intervals. It is his responsibility to make sure that taxes for the village are collected; the work ordered by the Administration such as keeping up the Rest-House, paths cleared etc., is done, and finally, he must see to it that his subjects keep the peace with neighbouring villages. The chief has no duties other than those allotted him be external authority.
When asked whether the chief would ever be called in to settle disputes between village members, my informants laughed and said, "of course not, he is only a 'small boy'". A man does not acquire status by being nominated chief.
No sanctions are available to the chief for enforcing obedience to his orders, other than calling in agents of the Administration. As in the case of Kassala, he would not do this, for the whole village would unite against a chief who acted as a traitor to his people. The fact that the chief's agents, namely the Kassala, are often influential men in their own right helps to explain why as a rule the chief's orders are obeyed. Also, the Mambila fear of the Fulani administration usually makes them prompt in complying with orders emanating from District Headquarters.
The chief has an unofficial assistant to help him carry out his duties. This person is called a Wakili. The term in Hausa means representative. He often acts in his stead when the chief is ill or busy, but he may not take the chief's place on the court panel, nor on the District Council. The Wakili is appointed by the chief with the consent of the Elders. Normally, I was told, the Wakili lives in the same hamlet as the chief for the sake of convenience. In Warwar at the present, the Wakili and chief live in neighbouring hamlets, since the new chief has kept on the Wakili appointed by the chief who was recently deprived of office. The new chief told me that he may appoint a new Wakili later on, but that he intends to keep the incumbent on for a while in order to take advantage of his experience. He went on to state that when he decides to name a new Wakili, he will select a man from his own hamlet.
The village priest is called Ngwa in the Warwar dialect. The first title holder is said to have bought the title from a village called Goshini. This village is reported to be located on the French side of the border and to be inhabited by Mambila-speaking people. It has not been possible to find Goshini on any map.
The office passes either from father to son, or from older to younger brother. All the holders have been related through agnatic ties to the first Ngwa. The present holder told me that this was the practice in Goshimi and that they had continued it in Warwar.
In the past, the Ngwa is said to have had important ritual duties. He made "medicine" to assure "good" animals - namely beasts which are harmless to man - being caught by hunters: and "bad" animals staying away. In return for these services he was given skins of leopards killed as well as the skin of a certain type of snake (not identified), the feathers of certain birds (again identified) and finally a share of all game animals killed by residents of the village.
The Ngwa was expected to go into ritual seclusion for two weeks every year. During this time, he should only be seen by senior men residing in the village. During this period of seclusion he was expected to make "medicine" to stop the river from overflowing its banks and spoiling the crops. Finally, the Ngwa was a peace-maker. His presence alone was enough to put an end to fighting for those who continued in such activity in his presence would be smitten by automatic supernatural sanctions. Illness would certainly strike them, and other disasters might overtake the village as a whole. On one occasion, two residents of the village fought in spite of his presence and the river overflowed its banks the very next day, at least so goes the tale. Some informants say that in the past disputes might be taken to the Ngwa to be settled. Today the Ngwa has no political functions and disputes are no longer taken to him to settle. His ritual functions also seem to have lost their importance. During the year that I was in the village, the incumbent neither made "medicine" to ensure good hunting, nor did he retire into ritual seclusion. I was told that he had not done either of these things for some years. In fact, the only time that the Ngwa acted in a ritual capacity was one market day, when he made "medicine" prohibiting the residents of the village from selling any of their surplus food-stuffs to strangers on the market-day in any place but the market.
An indication that the office has lost most of the importance that it previously had emerges from the fact that from about 1930 to 1945 the office was vacant. The holder died and, as none of his sons were old enough to be installed in office, no Ngwa was named. We have said earlier that it was possible in cases of this sort to give the office to a younger brother of the deceased, but even though a younger brother of the deceased was resident in the village, this was not done. In 1945, the present holder was given the office. He told me that this took place because, in the preceding years the river had flooded and caused much damage to crops. The people then had asked him to take over the office and stop the river from causing any damage. The majority of my informants said that he had wanted to be given the title and, as they had no reason to refuse him, this was done, but no one had begged him to do so.
Perhaps the reason that the Ngwa no longer plays an important role is that the incumbent is one of the three lepers in the village. In the past leprosy was said to be sent by the ancestors to punish either individual sinners or members of a sinner's family. It is possible that the present Ngwa is not much respected or turned to for ritual and political guidance on account of this belief. Unfortunately I had not the opportunity to enquire into the role of Ngwa in other villages. But this is not the only explanation. The fact that hunting has lost most of its importance has also been instrumental in lessening the significance of the role of the Ngwa. Since fighting is punished by the Administration and as a result no longer occurs, his duty to maintain peace is no longer important. His only function seems to be to act as the voice through which now regulations affecting the market are passed on to the villagers. How these were made when no one held the office, I do not know.
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