The Mada (Cameroon)

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It is Mouchet (1948:107) who informs us that ‘Mada’ was the name of the founding ancestor of the Mada, and that Mada had come, about 200 years ago, from the southwest in ‘Ula-Matakam’ (Mafa), an area Mouchet (ibid) specifies further as the sector of ‘Madakoney’ or ‘Rwa’. Madakoney and Rwa (Roua) are settlements east Sulede (see Mafa page) on the road leading from Meri to Mokolo. Mada had left Mafa land together with his wife ‘Domgudum’ and settled at the place in Mada which was known at Mouchet’s time as ‘Zekenzama’. Mouchet tells us that ‘Zekenzama’ was an uninhabited massif at the time of Mada’s arrival (ibid).


Mouchet (ibid:106) informs us that Moisel (1912-13) does not mention Mada on his map (1:300,000, Sheet C-4). The Mada massifs are between 600 and 1000 m high, and are found at the northeastern cliffs of the Northern Mandaras. The inselberg of the Muyeng, their nextdoor neighbours in the east, is already situated in the plain. Their northern neighbours are the Uldeme, and their southern neighbours are the Zulgo. Mada consisted in Mouchet’s time of twelve hamlets, which have been founded by four sons of Mada (ibid:108). The main settlement in Mada land of today is Mada-Kolkos, which is already situated in the plain. The highest summits at Mada land belong to the arrondissement Tokombere, canton Mada.


Mouchet (1948:107) speaks of 4,597 Mada. Hallaire & Barral (1967:56) speak of 11.264, but Hallaire (1991:26) counts only 8,265 Mada. Boulet et al (1984:119) count 10,100, whereas SIL (1982) speaks of 17,000 Mada. According to Haillaire (199:fig5) the population density in Mada land is between 40 and 99 inhabitants per square km.

According to Barreteau (1984:168ff) mada is a dialect of mafa-south, together with wuzlam (Uldeme), muyang and melokwo (Mokyo-Molkwo). The SIL website Ethnologue classifies Mada under Biu-Mandara, A5.


The Mada form an ethnic and linguistic unity. Their ethnicity is derived from Mada the founding ancestor of all Mada. The Mada have incorporated a few local kingroups of other ethnic origin, like e.g. some Mboku or Mbreme (Mouchet 1948:108). Richard (1977:75ff) describes the social organisation of the Mada as homogeneous in terms of clanship, meaning the vast majority of Mada lineages derive themselves from their founding ancestor Mada.


Richard’s (1977) monograph on the Mada and ‘Mouyeng’ (Muyeng) is so far the most important literature on the Mada. She describes not only the social organisation, but also the territorial and religious system as well as the life cycle of an individual person. However, the most important part of her ethnography is the description of the matrimonial system of the Mada and the changes it faces in terms of the influences of modernisation. Mouchet’s survey (1948) remains the first substantial record of the Mada as an ethnic group. Another important ethnographic source on the Mada, which predates Richard, is Cuingnet (1968). For further mention are Brunet ‘s Dictionnaire Mada (1982), and Rossing’s comparative study of the Mada and Mafa languages (1978).


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