Ngoketunjia refers to a grasslands plain overlooked by the Ngoketunjia mountain. As such it is an environment of breathtaking beauty, inhabited by semi-Bantu and Fulani people. It is a region where tradition and culture remain strong.
Ngoketunjia consists of 13 villages. All of which start with the letters "Ba". This is derived from the times of the German colonization denoting "people of".
Each of the villages has its own unique language and tradition presided over by the traditional hierarchy. As such each of the villages is a Fondom and has a traditional ruler - the Fon.
The villages of Ngoketunjia are as follows:
- Baba I
Cameroon has two seasons. A wet season and a dry season. The wet season spans the months of March to October. The dry season spans the months of October to March.
The villages of Ngoketunjia are surrounded by mountains and the Ngoketunjia plain is elevated. Therefore the conditions are more moderate than in the rest of Cameroon. Ngoketunjia is more arid than the humid southern cities and although hot, the heat is more moderate than in the northern regions.
Administration consists of the government authorities and each ministry will have a representative delegation in the centre of the division. For Ngoketunjia the administrative centre is the village of Bamunka.
As such the hierarchy follows the following order:
- Senior Divisional Officer (SDO): responsible for the division
- Divisional Officer (DO): responsible for the sub division
- Lord Mayor: responsible for the village
- Delegates: responsible for the representation of the various ministries in the division
The governmental hierarchy exists alongside the traditional authority. This consists of a system of secret societies represented by the Fon. The Fon delegates duties to a traditional council, Quarter heads and Sub-quarter heads. The Fon is the custodian of all the land in the village.
Rulings by the court of law and by the traditional council have equal weight.
Ngoketunjia falls within the Anglophone North West Province of Cameroon and therefore English is widely spoken.
However, the region is unique due to the diversity of native languages and each village has its own language.
As such a mix of English/French and the native languages (Pidgen) is widely spoken.
The villages of Bamessing, Bamunka, Babungo Baba I,and Babessi are on the ring road circling the Ngoketunjia plane.
The villages of the Ngoketunjia plane can be reached from Bamenda. Share taxis run from Mile 4 park. In addition the bus operator Amour Mezam offers a bus service to Kumbo which will stop in Bamessing, Bamunka, Babungo and Babessi.
For the other villages, share taxis can be taken from Bamunka.
Motorbike taxis are the primary means of transport and are widely and easily available.
The following tour operators can provide indepth information on Ngoketunjia and Cameroon:
- Babungo palace and museum: this beautiful and well organized museum gives the visitor the unique opportunity of viewing the traditional artifacts and understanding its importance in the history and culture of the fondom. The museum is open 7 days a week. Entry to the museum costs 2,000 Frs per person. Entry to the palace is an additional 2,000 Frs per person. Photography is an additional 5,000 Frs. Filming is 10,000 Frs. For more information call +(237) 77 76 71 42.
- Presspot Handicraft centre (Bamessing): A centre for artisans in claywork. The visitor can view the entire process from the extraction of clay from the ground, to the final moulding and backing in traditional ovens. Works from the Press Centre in Bamessing are exported.
- Rice fields (Bamunka): Ngoketunjia is famed within Cameroon for the growth of rice. The plane contains a vast swamp that has been converted into rice fields. Rice is farmed traditionally.
- Palm wine and rafia wine: the drink of tradition. Palm wine and rafia wine is tapped from the palm tree. The people of Ngoketunjia use the palm tree not only for the wine, but also for oil, soap and household utensils
- Climb Ngoketunjia mountain: Ngoketunjia in the traditional dialect means the "shape of the roof of a house".
- Bambalang Lake Dam: visitors can hire a boat to travel around the serene environment of the lake
- Local artisans in Bamessing: woodwork & weaving (all using traditional methods)
- BABA1: there is the massive production OF gari at the cassava production centre in BABA 1
- Local artisans in Babungo: woodwork & ironwork (all using traditional methods)
- Story telling in Bamunka
Each year each of the villages will host a cultural festival. This is a unique opportunity to see dancers, masquerades (jujus), gun firing, snake dancers and fire dancers. After marveling at these sights, sit with the locals and enjoy a glass of the famed palm wine.
All visitors are welcome to the festivals and all festivals are free of charge.
Festival dates for the different villages are listed below:
- 5/Dec/08: Traditional national assembly of the village/pronouncement of the message of the year by messengers of the Ngumba or Nwonserh /Kingmakers (whole day)
- 6/Dec/08: Fon’s movement or procession to and from Nchilokeh (Meussi)/Sharing of salt to infants/ Display of Njujus or Masquerades (whole day)
- 14/Dec/08: Fon’s movement to Bekue or first Palace of the Bamunka people/Sharing of salt to infants/ Display of Njujus or Masquerades (whole day)
- 22/Dec/08: Bamunka Palaces/Annual celebrations of the passing away or death of the two previous fons/ Series of colourful cultural events beginning with queens, masquerades, dignitoaries dances, etc (whole day)
- 30/Dec/08: Trekking of the Fon and entourage to site/Fon’s stop-over at traditional religious site (Ncheumbeh_ upon return from Ngo-Mbuh/Singing, dancing and blessings of the Fondom (whole day). This is the only opportunity to see women's participation in the annual festivals.
- 7/Jan/08: Same events as on the 22/Dec/08. Series of colourful cultural events beginning with queens, masquerades, dignitaries dances, etc
- 15/Jan/08: Annual celebration of the passing away or death of the two previous Fons/Series of colourful cultural events by Princes or those who do not belong to Nwonserh/Appearance of masquerades, of Ngueteh and dignitaries, traditional dances, etc (whole day)
- 23/Jan/08: Same as 15/Jan/08 (half a day)
- Last week of January: Other socio-cultural activities of the Meukoh people’ (at least two days)
- 19/Dec/08: Start of cultural festival. Notables wearing traditional dress move from palace around the village
- 23/Dec/08: Girls and women dance bearing peace plants
- 8/Jan/08: Fire & snake dances
- 17/Jan/08: Quarter heads from the village bring gifts of palm wine to the palace. The Fon and notables accept the palm wine and dance
- 19/Jan/08: Prince and princesses dance from the palace to the market
- 20/Jan/08: Annual dance—masquerades (jujus) dance
BAFOUSSAM Events occur throughout November, December and January. For more information call the palace on +237 94 33 26 48 (Agathe)
FOUMBAN November 28th-November 20th Balikumbat: The famous Lela Dance
Ngoketunjia is renowned for its cultural manifestations. The region is rich in traditional dances and in masquerades. Masquerades have ancestral powers and play an integral role in the tradition and governance of the village. Typically each village has an all powerful masquerade and the secret society of this masquerade is the most powerful body within the village.
Masquerades are normally only seen during particular events such as annual dances, death celebrations etc.
Dealth celebrations and annual dances usually occur during the months of November to February.
However should the visitor wish to see the traditional dances and masquerades the following organisations will arrange such an event:
- PCDI Cameroon  [dead link]: a local NGO based in Bamunka who work with the local groups to organise cultural events (www.pcdi-cameroon.org)
- Babungo Palace: will organise events for tourists. For more information call +237 77 76 71 42
BABA 1;THE PEOPLE OF THIS VILLAGE WEAVE TRADITIONAL BAGS,CAPS AND OTHER DRESSES
The market is the central point in the villages and contains everything from food to clothes and household wares. The market occurs every 8th day and is a socially important event in the life of the villagers.
The village of Bamunka has one supermarket which contains tinned foods, shampoos, coffee etc. However the supermarket is modest in size and apart from a daily necessities, shopping will be at the nearby town of Bamenda.
Credit and debit cards are not accepted in the villages. Similarly foreign exchange is not accepted.
Banks at the villages are local banks and do not accept credit cards or foreign exchange. The nearby town of Bamenda has one ATM.
Foreign currency can be changed in Bamenda. Euros are more widely accepted than US$ (although a black market for US$ can be found in the market in Bamenda).
Maize, cocoyams, cassava, plantain, rice and groundnuts are the staple in the region. As such the diet in Ngoketunjia consists of corn fufu (pounded corn), water fufu (pounded cassava), achu (pounded coco yams), plantain and rice. These are normally accompanied by vegetables and as an extra meat of fish.
Few "Western" type restaurants can be found. However the restaurant at the Kings Heritage Hotel in Bamunka offers the visitor European and African cuisine.
Locals restaurants consist of home cooked food carried in containers to bars. Grilled plantain, grilled (African) plums, grilled meat (soya) and grilled fish (mackerel) are common, particularly in and near the market area.
The traditional drink is Palm or Raffia Wine, a white milky alcoholic drink. A favourite pastime is sitting in a bar with a bottle of palm wine and chewing kola nuts.
Beer is widely available.
Bars are common and can be found virtually everywhere.
The Samba night club in the Green Valley Resort in Bamunka is open over the weekends and is a particular favorite with the locals.
- Green Valley Resort (Bamunka)
- Atlantic Hotel (Bamunka) - Tel: +(237) 74 57 27 65
- Kings Heritage Hotel (Bamunka) - Tel: +(237) 79 68 95 90
- Babungo Palace (Babungo) - Tel: +(237) 77 76 71 42
-Plain Hotel Bamunka (commonly called bamboo hotel) -Pa Metoh Resort Bamunka
Policing is done by the police force and gendarmes (responsible for national security).
As such checkpoints of the police and gendarmes is common along highways. Visitors should always ensure that they carry their ID (or certified copies) and yellow fever certificate.
Also, bribery and corruption is very common among the police and the bus drivers
Malaria and typhoid are common problems in Ngoketunjia. Visitors are advised to carry insect repellent, mosquito nets and to not drink untreated water.
HIV/AIDs is widespread. So visitors are advised to be careful.
- A no smoking order was adopted nationwide. So although smoking is not prohibited, it is discouraged in public spaces
- Crossing legs is perceived to be a sign of disrespect. Therefore when with elders you should not cross your legs. Women are perceived to be inferior to men, and so when in the presence of men, women should not cross their legs
- The Fon is of elevated status and therefore cannot be touched by ordinary people. Therefore when meeting the Fon, do not shake his hand. The Fon should be greeted with a traditional greeting (which the locals will teach the visitor) bowing down to the Fon is the most acceptable and respectable manner
- When shaking hands with a more senior person, it is common to touch the elbow of the right hand with the left hand
- When eating with an elderly person, you can´t watch your hands when the elderly person is still eating or you beg for permission to do it
- Dressing is conservative
Religion and beliefs
The semi-bantu people (on the plain) are primarily Christian (Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal). The nomadic Fulani and Bororro people are Muslim. However traditional ancestral beliefs are also widely held.
The village of Bamunka has one public internet centre - this is the only internet centre in the division.