The History of the Bamilekes

The Bamileke people live in western Cameroon, in a landlocked area, several tens of kilometers from Nigeria, located on high plateaus. Let’s explore their social organization.

In the area inhabited by the Bamileke, the climate is cool and the vegetation lush. The Bamilékés live within chiefdoms, with a precise hierarchy of the community. About a hundred chiefdoms are spread over this region. You can recognize them by their gigantic entrance doors with conical roofs. Worship of ancestors and totems, customary justice, importance of symbols: the Bamileke are attached to traditions.
Listen below to Cécile Leclerc’s interview with Flaubert Taboué Nouaye, curator and director of the Museum of Civilizations in Dschang, in the heart of Bamileke country. He first explains the origin of this people.

The Bamilékés lost part of their heritage during the war of independence in Cameroon. The nationalists were numerous among the Bamileke, they took up the maquis against the French colonists. The repression of the former colonial power and then of the new president Ahidjo was terrible. Chiefdoms were burned, royal palaces destroyed, and the Bamileke massacred. It is difficult to establish a precise balance sheet: the figures vary between 10,000 and 300,000 deaths depending on the source.

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