MEET THE DIVINERS
Nggamdu.org presents the work of Bollo Pierre 'Tadios' and other diviners locally practicing in the village of Somié, who will mediate the consultations between spider and participant.
Bollo Pierre 'Tadios' (b. 1966) is a painter and diviner living and practicing in the village of Somié, Cameroon. He is the son of Nyakati François, and nephew of Tam Oumarou who was senior advisor to the village chief in the mid 1980s. Having learnt the practice of nggàm du from his father and uncle, both well known diviners, he has been practicing nggam for most of his adult life. Bollo’s family are connected to the Chief of Somié and 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 practice other forms of divination. He knows some other types but prefers to use nggàm dù since it is regarded as the most reliable.
Left to right: Day 2 of Women’s Sua. L-R: Sapkeh, Korobon wearing the Chef of Somié’s hat, Bollo Pierre (1998); Bollo Pierre and his late wife (1999); Bollo and his son holding a painted sign related to the village reforestation project; Bollo Pierre painting David Zeitlyn’s portrait (1999)
Wajiri Nafa Jeremié ‘Kung’ (b. ca 1930) is the most senior diviner in the village in 2023, although he is no longer actively divining. He was the Prince Regent in 1976 after chief Mògò, before chief Degah and a senior member of sùàgà bɔ̀ sép (the male masquerade). Up until the last few years, he has continued to serve as a senior advisor to the Chief.
Vu Paul (b. ca 1960) is also a senior member of sùàgà bɔ̀ sép. He was taught divination by Wajirii Bì, the senior elder from Njerep who also initiated Huomnuar David. As of 2023, he is the most senior practitioner who regularly consults ŋgàm dù.
Suop Sylvestre (b. 1984) is the son of Muyna André who was a senior advisor to the chief, and a well know diviner, from whom he learnt ŋgàm dù. He is the youngest diviner currently practicing.
Huomnuar David (b. 1958) was taught ŋgàm dù by Wajirii Bì, the senior elder from Njerep, as well as knowing several other systems of divination. He has published on the history of Somié with Mial Nicodeme and Mbé Charles.
In conversation with Bollo Pierre 'Tadios'
Somié, Cameroon – March 2023
Recorded by Iréné Nguea
Translation by Efuentngu Emelda
Iréné Nguea (IN): Mr. Bollo Pierre, we would like you to talk about your story and life in the village, and the role you play in the village as a diviner.
Bollo Pierre ‘Tadios’ (BPT): As a child, I learned so many things from my father because I was always around him. He would ask me to go and fetch [leaves to make] leaf-cards and as a result I gained a wealth of knowledge about our tradition from him. When he passed on, I took after him. My role is to consult the ŋgam dù.
When I watched my father consult the ŋgam dù, and act as a notable [to the Chief of Somié] as well, I was enthusiastic to be like him one day. That is what I am today and what I will also like my children to be. When a chief dies, the ŋgam dù helps us to choose the next appropriate chief for the village. I’ll consult the ŋgam dù and it will tell me to choose this or that person. That is who the notables will all believe to be the rightful chief to be enthroned.
IN: What are the difficulties faced by the village and how is life in this local setting?
BPT: The ŋgam dù is for the entire village, it is not just for me. If there is any problem in the village, the chief will ask me to go and inquire from the ŋgam dù, at times with some notables and other times alone. When I do this, it will guide me on the solutions to be applied or the way forward, which I report back to the chief.
We have discovered that fewer and fewer people are interested in this tradition of consulting the ŋgam dù, because technical schools have been created over the years. All of my children are interested in it and I say it is traditional knowledge. When my children see that I am able to help people through this traditional practice, it is normal that they will become interested and take over me, and so will their friends as well.
IN: Mr. Bollo Pierre, do you think the project can be supported in the future?
BPT: An association [for ŋgam dù] has been created, and this association needs support. Also, there is photography [work] that needs support. To film the ŋgam dù we need photography. We have a culture to valorize and a generation of youths to train on fields such as culture, photography, arts and crafts. We are in an enclaved village and we really need help. Thank you very much.
IN: Recently Denis Ndeloh joined you to support the ŋgam dù project and also in his work with CBBM in Somié. What will this collaboration signify for you and the village?
He came when the association ŋgam dù was already created and when he got here, he took interest in this association and said he was going to support. The ŋgam dù is very interesting and very important to the world at large, that’s why Denis Ndeloh is interested to carry out reforestation, to prevent water that comes down and also to protect and maintain the chimpanzee population. We should support this cause.
IN: Ok, to say in a single word, the fact that Denis Ndeloh came is a joy for you to receive him and you have taken his work into consideration.
BPT: Exactly, if CBBM which is represented by Denis Ndeloh has already started to do a project on the protection of chimpanzees and the harnessing of water which is being done upstream for the purposes of reforestation is so laudable. This helps our village as a whole and the chimpanzees to be at ease in their habitat.
IN: Do you mean to say you lend your full support to Dennis’ project because it is of great help to the village?
BPT: You have said it all, when he comes he goes to the field to carry out research just as David who has been here before him. We are so happy to have him around.
IN: David Zeitlyn has collaborated with the village of Somié for over 30 years. Could you tell us about your relationship of the years and how this has grown?
BPT: It may interest you to know that since David came to our village there are a number of things he has helped with, and as such we consider him now as nothing but an indigene of Somié. To begin with, he is already notable in our village and speaks our local language as someone born in Somié. When there is a traditional feast, he is the one charged with ushering the chief out for festivities to commence. It is also thanks to him that we can boast of potable water today in this village. There is also the Somié community forest project [REFCOASO] which is still ongoing thanks to him. Moreover, if we have photographs of our ancestors today, it’s still thanks to him because he made it a reality. In addition, he is always here with the villagers talking with them in the local language and everyone loves and is so comfortable with his presence. He is always in the palace as well and when there are local disputes, he takes part in the traditional trials as a judge as well. This illustrates the collaboration we have at the Somié palace.
Ok, to say in a word, David is no longer a stranger in Somié, he is a son of Somié. He eats what we eat, he speaks our local language and knows all the traditions of Somié.
IN: It means you consider him today as a brother?
BPT: Exactly that, it is because of this that his name was David Zeitlyn but today we have given him the name Huomnuar which means “someone is something because of another”. In other words, “it is through someone that we can develop”. That is the meaning of his name, so he is our brother.
IN: From what you’re saying it means Huomnuar is a good person?
BPT: Definitely, he is a good person.
IN: Mr. Bollo Pierre, here we will like to inform you that all what you’ve done as an interview will be shared with the inhabitants of London who will come to see [exhibition of Nggamdu.org]. What would you like to say to these visitors?
BPT: I’ll tell them is to have absolute confidence in the ŋgam dù. It never ceases to tell the truth, it tells what happens now and in the future. To better understand, Mr. Tomás, who visited us with David [in 2019], wanted to be sure of this. As such, we visited the ŋgam dù and he asked a question [on behalf of Emma Enderby] about the upcoming American presidential elections that year.
He said, “next year there is an election in America, will the old president be voted back to office or will a new president be elected?”. The ŋgam dù answered and told him there will be a new president, but before that there will be a problem, and that is exactly what happened.
IN: Yes! That’s it.
BPT: Okay, we thank you so much.
MEET THE DIVINERS