The Podokwa (Cameroon)

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To my knowledge, no etymology of the name Podokwa is known to us so far. Lembezat (1952:5) spells out that ‘Podogo’ (Lembezat 1950, ethnic map) should be better spelt ‘Podokwo’. However, the administrative name is Podoko (Hallaire 1991:24), but Boulet et al (1984:115) speak of ‘Podokwo’ as an ethnic group, and so does Barreteau (1984:170). Muller-Kosack (1999) assumes that the ending ‘kwa’ refers to stone or rock (kwa=stone/rock in Mafa; kwire=stone/rock in Dughwede) and that the name somehow refers to people of the mountains. The Podokwa consist of four main clans or sections, the Moukoulehe (Mukulehe), the Oudjila (Ujila), The Tala Dabara and the Tala Sale (Lembezat 1950:84).


The Podokwa occupy the northern massif west of Mora Town, consisting of a plateau of between 600 and 700 m altitude. The Podokwa live in three cantons, which are: Podoko -Nord, Podoko-Centre, and Podoko-South. They all belong to the arrondissement Mora.



Podoko is with more the 140 inhabitants per square km, one of the most densely populated areas of the Northern Mandaras. Hallaire & Barral (1967:57) speak in 1961 of 11,030 Podokwa. Hallaire (1991:26) counts 12,862, while Boulet et al (1984:119) count only 9,600 Podokwa. SIL (1993) speak of 30,000 ‘Parkwa’ (parekwa=Podokwa), which seems to be highly unrealistic.

According to Barreteau (1984:167ff) parekwa (Podokwa) is, like gelvaxdaxa (Glavda) and wandala (wandala, mura, and malgwa), a dialect of wandala-east. Muller-Kosack (1999) is of the opinion that the language affiliation fits oral traditions he has found among the Dughwede and the Guduf of the Gwoza Hills, which say that the Padakwa once lived on their land. The same has been reported by R. Lukas (1973:24) for the Guduf.


The Podokwa clans are of various origin. The Mukulehe consist of twelve lineages, and each had his own lineage territory. Four of the twelve lineages, who came from Waza (an inselberg 60 km north of Mora Town), joine the other eight lineages later. Skoula (Skula) is the most important Mukulehe lineages. The Skula came from the west. Lembezat (1952:89) says from the ‘Matakam’ territory. The clan Oudjila (Ujila) also consists of twelve lineages. Some of the Ulila lineages came from Mada, others came from Uldeme and others again come from Waza (Lembezat, ibid).



Most important ethnographic literature is Lembezat (1952). Lembezat, who was chef de sub-division Mora in 1939, describes the social life and the religious beliefs of the Mukulehe clan. Lembezat also refers to the Podokwa in his regional ethnographical survey from 1950 (republished in 1961). Simmonetta (1967) published an ethnographic account on the Podokwa. The proposed historical link of the Podokwa of today, especially to the Guduf, has not yet been properly researched. There is a huge amount of linguisitc literature on the Podokwa. Beginning with J. Lukas (1937), De Waard (1971) Anderson et al (1981), Wiesemann (1981), Burquest et al (1986), Jarvis (1981 till 1992) with a dictionary (1992). Zagba (1986), Watters (1987), Wolff (1987). Dagwedza et al (1979) on oral literature and Zela et al (1985) collected Podokwa folk tales.

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