The Zulgo (Cameroon)

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Mouchet (1949:51) informs us that the name for the massif ‘Zelgwa’ (Zulgo) is derived from the ancestor ‘Zelgwa’, who was the father of ‘Gedak’. Zelgwa’s father was ‘Takwa’, who had left about 200 years ago ‘Wazan’ (Wazang) in Mofu land (ibid). The majority of the Zulgo lineages are derived from the Takwa clan (Graffenried 1984:58).


Mont Mbele is, at 1159 m, the highest massif in Zulgo land. Zulgo is found on both sides of the road leading from Meri to Mora. The most northerly settlement of the Zulgo is Tala-Zoulgo, and the most southerly settlement is Mambeza (once founded by Zelgwa’s son Gedak). The nextdoor neighbours of the Zulgo are the Gemjek in the southeast. Their other neighbours are the Mafa in the southwest, the Mineo in the west, the Muktele in the northwest, and the Mada in the north. Zulgo and Gemjek belong both to the canton Serawa (arrondissement Tokombere, departement Mayo Sava).


Haillaire & Barral (1967:57) count 8,138 Zulgo, while Mouchet (1949:40) counts only 1,789. Hallaire (1991:26) speaks of 8,000 Zulgo and 4,000 Gemjek, while Boulet et al (1984:119) count 8,000 ‘Zulgo-Guemjek’. SIL (1982) counts 18,000 Zulgo and 8,000 to 10,000 Gemjek, which sounds highly unrealistic. Graffenried (1984:27) speaks of 13,125 Zulgo and Gemjek. Hallaire’s map (1991:fig5) shows between 40 to 99 and 100-139 inhabitants per square km.


According to Barreteau (1984:168ff) zulgwa (Zulgo) is like minew (Mineo), gemjek, dugwor and mikiri (Dugur=Mofu-Diamare) a dialect of mafa-south. Zulgwa, minew and gemjek are very close. The SIL website Ethnologue sees Zulgwa and Minew as one and the same dialect, which they classify as Zulgwa under Biu- Mandara A.5.


The Zulgo consist of clans of lineages of various ethnic and geographical origin. Already Mouchet (1949), but especially Graffenried (1984:58ff) inform us of local kingroups coming from Waza (an inselberg about 60 km northeast of Mora Town), Mokyo-Molkwo, Mboku, Mineo, Mafa and Mofu-Wazang, whereby the father of the founding ancestor from Mofu-Wazang has given name to the Zulgo as an ethnic group. The Zulgo are closely related to the Gemjek (Graffenried (ibid), but it remains unclear how close they are related to the Mineo.


Vincent (1991:60ff) refers to the Zulgo, together with the Meri, Gemjek and Mboku as ‘tseklam’, and groups them together with the so-called Mofu-Diamare. She remains unclear whether to include the Mineo (ibid). It remains to be seen whether Vincent’s concept of a common Mofu-Diamare ethnicity is shared by all Mofu-Diamare.

Most important literature on the Zulgo is Graffenried’s (1991) monograph on the Zulgo and Gemjek bull festival. Mouchet (1949) provided the first enthographic survey on the Zulgo. There is quite some linguistic literature on the Zulgo language: Haller (1977-1984), Lawarum et al (1983-1987), Watters (1987), and Wiesemann (1981). Magdeme (1977) published Zulgo folktales.


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