The project has been made upon the request of Bollo Pierre ‘Tadios’ following a visit to Somié in 2019 by Tomás Saraceno and Maximiliano Laina, led by the guidance of David Zeitlyn. With contributions by Iréné Nguea, Penny Fraser, Ollie George and Denis Ndeloh, this web portal is in constant evolution and transition.
All material published on the website remains the intellectual property of the spider, the diviners and people of Somié. Furthermore, all funds raised through Nggamdu.org are being distributed to the remuneration of divination work, locally-run projects, and the maintenance of this web portal by a local collaborator.
Nggàm dù finds ways that recognise, support and share other forms of situated and embodied knowledges—both human and non-human—that sit outside hegemonic Western narratives and frameworks for understanding the world. Its intention is not to appropriate objects or ideas, but to preserve and elevate the knowledge and practices that the people of Somié have chosen to share. Crucially: in ways that they would like it to be presented and framed. Our intention is, above all else, to listen; to find ways to work with acute sensitivity, guided by a sense of reciprocity and justice.
The project stresses a consciousness and sensitivity to the violence of historic extractivist and appropriative approaches to encounters with non-European cultures. We advocate a radical change in praxis, enacted both through the methods and modes of interaction, a collective approach to the distribution of funds and of artistic control.
Bollo Pierre 'Tadios' is a painter and spider diviner living and practicing in the village of Somié, Cameroon. Having been divining most of his adult life, Bollo learnt the practice of ŋgam dù from his father and uncle. Bollo’s family are connected to the Chief of Somié, so he has played a crucial role in village affairs – serving as a forest guard and helping to deter wildlife poaching in the area. Unlike many of his colleagues Bollo does not regularly practise other forms of divination. He knows some other types but prefers to use ŋgam dù since it is regarded as the most reliable.
Iréné Nguea is a photographer and videographer in Somié, a member of the local EELC and president of his community. His filmic documentation of traditional ceremonies in the village led him to study radio and audiovisual production through courses organised by SIL Cameroon. Since 2019, he has been collaborating with his friend Bollo Pierre 'Tadios' to document consultations made through Nggamdu.org.
Tomás Saraceno is an Argentine artist living in Berlin, whose projects, consisting of floating sculptures, international collaborations, and interactive installations, propose a return to forms of inhabiting and sensing the environment that have been suppressed in the Capitalocene era. Collectively calling for environmental justices that enable interspecies cohabitation, Saraceno’s artistic collaborations open renewed relationships with the terrestrial, atmospheric, and cosmic realms—particularly through his community projects, Aerocene and Arachnophilia.
David Zeitlyn is a professor of anthropology at Oxford University who has been working with the Mambila people in Cameroon since 1985. Zeitlyn has been involved in a long-term exchange within the village, partly through his extensive research on Mambila divination. He has worked on connections between traditional religion and oratory at the village court (in which disputes are resolved through traditional oath taking), and sociolinguistic work on how families talk among themselves. His collaboration with the linguist Bruce Connell led to work on endangered languages in the area with students working in several neighbouring groups. He has worked with Cameroonian photographers resulting in work being exhibited in YaPhoto19, in London’s National Portrait gallery as part of Africa’05 and in 2021 a major exhibition in the UCLA Fower Museum.
Penny Fraser grew up on and around the open moorland, woodland and valleys of Dartmoor in south west England. It instilled a love, curiosity and respect for nature, and interest in the relationship we all have with the natural world. Studies in Environmental Science at Stirling, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Universities of Wales and Toronto further fuelled a career in the tropics, including research on leaf venation patterns, habits and relationships of tree seedlings, ways of knowing and identifying plants, and working with communities to grow biosynergy, particularly with trees and wildlife. After living in Cameroon for 23 years, Penny now works Africa-wide from Devon, England.
Ollie George is an artistic researcher who collaborates with Studio Tomás Saraceno as a writer and producer. He has developed research projects into participatory and educational formats for Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Royal College of Art, Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Victoria & Albert Museum, among others. With Edi Danartono and Ekaterina Golovko he convenes Archive for the Eleventh Hour, a curriculum-collective that devotes itself to the creation of counter-historical research, threading archival materials and polyphonic narration to develop a collectivity that entangles the immaterial, spectral and sonic.
Denis N. Etiendem, a passionate conservationist and human ecologist, embarked on his academic journey at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. He earned a Master of Science degree in Human Ecology in 2008 and later, a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2013. Etiendem's research primarily focuses on traditional ecological knowledge and the feeding ecology of endangered species such as Cross River gorillas and Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzees inhabiting the Cross-Sanagha Landscape. His dedication to conservation and protecting wildlife led him to establish Community-Based Biosynergy Management (CBBM), a Cameroonian non-profit organization devoted to promoting global person-centred biosynergy through indigenous wildlife monitoring, community forestry, and landscape restoration and resilience initiatives.
Arachnophilia is an interdisciplinary, research-driven initiative that emerged from Tomás Saraceno’s more than 10 year-long collaboration with humans, spiders and their webs. Through this community, Arachnophilia explores concepts and ideas related to spiders/webs across multiple scientific and theoretical disciplines, including vibrational communication, biomateriomics, architecture and engineering, animal ethology, nonhuman philosophy, anthropology, biodiversity/conservation, sound studies and music. Since 2019, Arachnophilia has proposed new, speculative and technological pathways for cultivating affective relations between spiders/webs and humans, harnessing digital tools to cultivate multispecies kinship in the technosphere and the biosphere.