Northern Montagnards

This page aims to introduce the life, environment and material culture of the peoples of the northern Mandara mountains of N Cameroon and NE Nigeria

The peoples of the Mandara mountains are often referred to as kirdi, a rather derogatory term often translated as pagan. The epistomology of the word is instrinsically linked to the history of slavery to which montagnards were exposed for hundreds of years. In the past the mountains provided a safe haven against slave raids but they also had other environmental advantages such as higher rainfalls. The latter is still of great importance for the mountain farmers who cultivate their land under the harsh conditions of the Sudano-Sahelian zone.

The northern Mandara Mountains have between 100 and 250 inhabitants per sq/km and a long history of being very densely populated. Their agricultural system of terrace farming has always been very labour intensive and included stall-feeding domestic stock to keep the terrace fields fertile, but this changed with the introduction of chemical fertiliser.

Mafa bull festival

The slideshow below shall demonstrate how the travelling bull festival was still in the year 2000 a ritual tool to manage community fecundity in the Mafa village of Zlama on the eastern slopes of the Ziver massif.
→ See mafa bull festival slideshow