Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Tikar People of Cameroon

 

Africans from the Bight of Biafra region (Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon) comprised of the largest group (40%) forcibly transported to Virginia ports during the transatlantic slave trade. Recent research by Dr. Lisa Aubrey and her team uncovered 166 slave ships from Cameroon. More info about that discovery can be read here. This history of the Tikar people was shared by Dr. John Q. Williams, who received this information from members of the Tikar people of Cameroon about their history.

Tikar History

A special thanks to HAMADJAM Raphaël Athanase Elisée of Douala, Cameroon for sharing the pictures below with me.

According to the oral and documented history of the Tikar people, they originated in present-day Sudan. It is believed that when they inhabited Sudan, they lived adjacent to two groups. The first group comprised of iron-makers/blacksmiths and carpenters in the Meroe Kindgom; this group (ancestors of the Mende people) later left the Sudan and moved west towards Lake Chad. They eventually traveled to the Mali Empire, and along with the town Fulani and Mande, founded the Kingdom of Mani. The second group - ancestors of the Fulani - arrived in the Sudan from Egypt and Ethiopia. These cattle and goat herders moved west to Lake Chad near present-day Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria before traveling across West Africa. It is believed that when the ancestors of the Tikar were in the Sudan, they lived along the Nile River. There, they developed their cattle grazing, iron-making, horse riding, and fighting skills.

At some point in time, the ancestors of the Tikar moved from the Sudan to the Adamawa Northern Region of present-day Cameroon. They settled in a village they named Ngambe (present-day Bankim District) where they intermarried with selected grassland farmers and animal herders.

During the mixing with selected grassland residents, a powerful chief and eventually king came to power. With the skills brought from the Sudan, the Tikar king was able to rule most of northern and central Cameroon. After the death of the king, his oldest son inherited the throne. Soon afterwards, his second son, Share-Yen, and his followers moved to present-day Mfounbam district and started the Mbamound Clan. Ngouo-Nso, a sister, and her followers moved to present-day Koumbo District and created the Koumbo Clan in the present-day state of Mbanso near Mbamenda. The youngest brother moved further south and created the Mbafia Clan in the present-day Mbam state.

The Tikar Empire had strong political traditions.  At the height of the Tikar Empire, fifteen kingdoms or clans existed; the Ngambe was the largest. Future kings and the ruling class always came from this clan and all clan were headed by a Fon who supervised nobles, large farm producers, military leaders, merchants, and town leaders. With superior weapons and fighting on horseback, Tikar soldiers protected the empire, maintained domestic peace, and collected taxes. A caste system existed, but the standard of living for the Tikar was above those from other ethnic groups. The Tikar people was known for their sophistication in government, war, and the arts - including a bronze casting process for making masks.

While the Tikar lived in Cameroon, most of the people with Tikar ancestry lived the "good life". Vocational training was the norm for Tikar boys, and teachers taught various forms of craft-making, woodcarving, mask carving, and making bronze sculptures. The Tikar people also developed a process for using hot wax to make masks and bronze sculptures. During the height of the Tikar Empire, many Tikar people were also gifted in music, dancing, acting, and writing.

The Tikar people had control over the trade routes between the Fulani and Hausa merchants to the north of the Tikar Empire and coastal ports. Due to the Tikar's advanced ceramic techniques and architecture/iron smelting kilns, products were exported north to the Hausa people and south to coastal ports.

For three centuries, the Tikar ruled present-day Cameroon and Central Africa with sophistication, but with a iron fist and heavy tax burdens on people from other ethnic groups. It was also reported that because of their high standard of living, there were more than one million people with Tikar ancestry by 1800.  However, trouble came.  Research revealed that by 1800, several African ethnic groups had joined the Europeans to fight the Tikar people, who were known for their quick ability to learn and their sophistication and for being hated by surrounding Africans.  The Tikar were unable to obtain modern weapons; they were never able to take control over the coast. So, they were caught in the middle between the coast and the north.

As the Tikar people attempted to abandon their traditional grassy savannahs and the plains where they were easy slave trade targets with no natural protection, they were forced to leave their villages with slave traders on one side and four hostile tribes on the other side seeking revenge. One of the strategies they applied to fight off the enemy was to dig moats around villages; these still exist in at least five kingdoms. However, this strategy failed and the survivors found refuge in the forest.

The transatlantic slave trade drained their brightest and most physically fit young people. Having been greatly weakened by war and the slave trade, they became vulnerable to neighboring groups who had been subjected by the Tikar for several centuries. When slavery ended, there were between 60,000 - 75,000 Tikars in Cameroon, and most of them were hiding in forests from slave traders. Today, less than 100,000 Tikars live in Cameroon. They live as small and scattered related groups in the northwestern highlands near the Nigerian border. Much of the Tikar area lies in Cameroon's Adamawa plateau and the western highlands.

The Tikar are among the most industrious people in Cameroon. Urban Tikar boys score the highest marks on math examinations. Most Tikar children earn the highest grades in school.  Urban Tikar students are reported to be the most gifted in arts and crafts, music, writing, and math.

Popular evening Tikar meals include: (1) chicken and tomatoes served on top of rice, (2) thick soups with hot spicy seasonings served on chicken, and (3) a form of fufu. Thick soups served on yams are often eaten in the morning.

Tikar Chiefs


GAH II Ibrahim, the chief of Bankim, the history capital of the Tikar people. 
There are many Tikar villages - Ngambe, Magba, Ntem, Bandam - but the main Tikar village is Bankim.


GAH II Ibrahim, the actual Chief of Bankim, standing near the crowned lake named "SEM SEM".


Left is the Chief of Ina (Tikar village) and right is the actual Chief of Ngambe (Honore MBGAROUMA).


This is a picture of the late chief of Ngambe. Ngambe is one of the Tikar villages. Around his neck is an ivory collar made of elephant tusks. He carries it only once per year, during the time of the festival called "Sweety". It is a traditional Tikar festival during which one calls upon the spirits of the ancestors and asks them to bless the community.


Copyright © 2014 Melvin J. Collier. All rights reserved.

33 comments:

  1. Melvin, thanks for this article. I have Tikar on my maternal grandmothers maternal line.

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    4. Hello my name is Diane Thomas I took my DNA my highest was Cameroon and Congo 35 per so I don't know who side but when I look at the timer tribe I look just like them

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    5. Told by my cousin from doing DNA that I am part of the tikar I would like to know more about it myself

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    6. I just found out that my mother's line traces to the Tikar people. Very excited to have this information. Trying to find information in traditional spiritual practices.

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  2. Thanks for the article brother i am a Tikar from the Tikar Dynasty of Wimbum, you did mentioned Nso clan in the article, when some Tikars left Bankim,and on their Arrival to Nso(Kumbu or Banso) two Brothers had a querrel one stayed and formed the Nso clan while the other one moved on to form the Wimbum clan, all what you mentioned in your article is 100% correct it's considered a shame if a Young man cannot do craft work which include furniture(usally traditional), making of traditional houses etc etc, When growing up we were told we came from Tikari(in other words we are Tikars) but it's after living the Mbum land that it began to appear clear and clear to me how related the Tikars are, their culture is unique from Bankim to Nkambe(wimbum land) to Kumbum(wi Nso land), One issue with the Tikars is that as they where moving they mixed and lost their language along the way, there is still great similarities in the languages especially between the Nso and Wimbum People. Once more thanks for the article brother i think it's high time Tikar Historians document our great history.

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    1. Do you have any information about The Tikar Dynasty in regards to having a spiritual system?

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    2. Good question....that's what I would like to know too.

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    3. Thank you for the sharing of this information. I received my DNA Results this year as 97.7% Tikar on my mother's blood line. I am very hungry to hear of the stories of origin. I also read that the Tikar came to the Sudan from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reportedas part of oral tradtion from a Tikar leader. I am trying to piece together my family history, here in the USA. I will check to research slave ships in Virginia, as there was research proving slave ships brought Tikar People to Va. Region. I look forward to visiting Cameroon, next year (2019). I am hoping for wise resolution to the Anglophone crisis and for the harmonious unity of the people of Cameroon. This knowledge has been a profound event upon my personae. I will join www.onetikaronepeople.com
      Sandra

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    4. This is so interesting. One of the king's looks like my father. Wow.

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  3. I just found out today that my ancestry is with the Tikar people. I am extremely excited and now I need to know what to do next. Are there any books or literature you can recommend I read to better understand my people?

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  4. I think it should be highlighted that it's South Sudan and not Sudan. Cameroonians have lineage with ancient South Sudan, there's no reason to call it Sudan because of the 2011 split. Also, South Sudan and Sudan had two different kingdoms functioning during the ancient civilization and Tikar people were nomadic, they resided in South Sudan. So there's some mistakes to be clarified here, also, South Sudan and Sudan shared land but never the same beliefs/culture/kingdom, they co-existed but never intermixed. Two completely different indigenous people living on land that had a non-disputed transparent border.

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  5. Hi all. My name if Formambuh Mutcho and originally from one of the two English speaking regions (North West region where the Tikar tribe happens to be in) Cameroon. Many African Americans have travelled to Cameroon through a program organized by the Cameroonian embassy in Washington DC. It Will be my pleasure travelling with anyone interested ( I'll pay for my own air fare and provide accommodation and tour guidance to who ever is interested. I live in Minnesota and can initially be reached at Lmuchform@icloud.com.

    Sincerely
    Mutcho Formambuh

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  6. The is great information!!!! I have recently be linked through my maternal lineage. I am digging for more information. Any advice or suggestions are welcome.

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  7. African Ancestry DNA has just confirmed that my matriarchal lineage is a 100 percent match to the Tikar people of Cameroon. I would love to connect with people who have the same lineage as well as those with established connections to Cameroon. If you are interested in connecting, Please contact me at ms.willis.dc@gmail.com. I am empowered by this information and have a vision to act on in the coming year!

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  8. Hello, Melvin. I also have ancestry among the Tikar people of Cameroon. I have been thinking about how to focus more on this area in my reunion efforts. This article, along with the comments, is such a great starting point. Thank you.

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  9. I am 26% Cameroon, and want to know how to pin point the tribe I descend from.

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  10. look on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/groups/diasporatikarandbamileke/?fref=nf

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  11. Today, African Ancestry confirmed my maternal genetic ancestry
    with TIKAR people in Cameroon today. I am excited. I will be visiting the onetikaronepeople website, as I look forward to travelling to Cameroon to meet the people of my people and naming ceremony I can't wait. Thank you for the info.
    Almanette Martin

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  12. I just found out through African Ancestry DNA that I am from the Tikar Tribe from my mother’s side. Would like more info on the Tribe and culture.

    Bruce Wynn

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  13. Thank you for this page and your work. I am just learning of my ancestral heritage, so this will be a lifelong journey for me as well. Peace.

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  14. Like many others I just got my African ancestry results back and I share materna genetic ancestry with the Tikar People of Cameroon. I look forward to learning about my culture, my people, and our history.

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  16. I'm Clinton, a Tikar from the Ngemba Clan not Ngambe. these facts i enjoyed reading. The major hub of the Tikar's in Cameroon is the Town Of Bamenda. the Bamenda people migrated from Sudan to Bamkim(Northern Cameroon) and lost to a European invasion war before migrating to the north west region( grass field Of Cameroon).Bamenda( British southern Cameroon) a former British colony . we are so unique and the British discovered it. very powerful, intelligent, creative and the most rebellious people group in Cameroon( Cameroon's oral History holds than about 80% of the Bamenda people(Tikar's) were sold into slavery. Very welcoming . trust me you visit Bamenda Cameroon with the Tikar blood ruining through your veins you will feel as you have once known these people.

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  17. I am glad to know I am part of the Tikar people. Definitely want to k ow anout the spuritual components as well as visuting at some point. So glsd we mow have DNA testing to reconnect.

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  18. Thank you have Tikar on my mothers side African American.

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  19. I am Tikar I Did African ancestry and it say that I share most of my DNA with the Tikar people.

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  20. I want to thank you for the hx of the Tikar tribe. I married a Cameroon women of the past 22 years. Before the DNA tests, when I visited Cameroon my in-laws said I resembled people from the north in the region of Bamenda. they used the term KiKi people. My wife is from Dougla in the french speaking area, but she speaks English very well. We have land in this area, and planning on building a home, school and church. We live in Louisiana.

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