Bamileke Wood Harp Cameroon
The Bamileke are a Central African ethnic group residing in the Western High Plateau of Cameroon. They are the largest ethnic group in Cameroon and are divided into several subgroups, each with its own chief or fon.
The Bamileke languages belong to the Grassfields branch of the Niger-Congo language family. While some sources may refer to them as a "Bantoid language," it's more appropriate to categorize them as part of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo family.
Regarding the origin of the Bamileke, their history suggests that they migrated southward from the region now occupied by the Tikar people due to pressures from Fulani invasions in the 17th century.
The Bamileke have a patrilineal social structure, where descent, succession, and inheritance are traced through the male line. They practice polygyny, and marriage often involves the payment of a significant bride-price. The Bamileke are primarily sedentary farmers, cultivating crops such as corn (maize), taro, and groundnuts (peanuts). Men typically engage in clearing fields, building houses, and crafts, while women are primarily involved in cultivation.
Their settlements consist of dispersed family homesteads, forming neighborhoods. Traditional Bamileke houses feature square structures with conical thatched roofs and walls made of latticework constructed from raffia poles filled with mud. The houses of chiefs often have decorative carvings on doorframes and posts.
The Bamileke people have adapted well to a cash economy and have made significant contributions to the economic development of Cameroon. They have been involved in various professions, trade, craftsmanship, and labor. In the late 20th Century, their population was estimated to be around 2,120,000.
Ancestor worship is a significant aspect of Bamileke religious beliefs. Lineage heads are responsible for preserving ancestral skulls and offering sacrifices to them. Traditional healers and diviners play a role in Bamileke society, preparing charms, medicines, and practicing divination. Some Bamileke have also adopted Islam, especially in the northern regions, while others have converted to Christianity.
Overall, the Bamileke people have a rich cultural heritage and have contributed significantly to the social, economic, and religious fabric of Cameroon.