TIKAR PEOPLE: CAMEROON`S ARTISTIC BAMENDA GRASSFIELD TRIBE
The Tikar are a group of related ethnic proto-Bantoid Tikar-speaking groups in Cameroon. They live primarily in the northwestern part of the country, in the Northwest Province near the Nigerian border. In the Bamenda Grassfields, those who claim Tikar origin include Nso, Kom, Bum,Bafut, Oku, Mbiame, Wiya, Tang, War, Mbot, Mbem, Fungom, Weh, Mmen, Bamunka, Babungo, Bamessi, Bamessing, Bambalang, Bamali, Bafanji, Baba (Papiakum), Bangola, Big Babanki, Babanki Tungo, Nkwen, Bambili and Bambui.
Their population is approximately 47,000. They share their language with the Bedzan pygmies.
In recent times, the Tikar people have become popular to African-Americans.
The Tikar people speak Bantoid language, also called Tikar. Tikar is a Bantoid language of uncertain classification spoken in Cameroon by the Bankim, Ngambe, and related Tikar peoples, as well as by the Bedzan Pygmies. Blench (2011) states that the little evidence available suggests that it is most closely related to the Mambiloid and Dakoid languages.Variants of the name are Tikali, Tikar-East, Tikari, Tingkala. A Bandobo variety (Ndobo, Ndob, Ndome) may be a separate language. Less divergent dialects are Twumwu (Tumu) in Bankim, Tige in Ngambe, Nditam, Kong, Mankim, Gambai, and Bedzan.
Tikar is a cover term for three relatively similar dialects spoken in the Cameroun Grassfields, Tikari, Tige and Tumu (Stanley 1991). Tikar is spoken on the Tikar plain, south and south-east of Mambiloid proper, and it shares a common border with some Mambila and Kwanja lects in Cameroun. The Tikar Plain, a highly multi-lingual region, is referenced in many early administrative documents. Koelle (1954) includes a Tikar wordlist, but the first analysis of the Tikar language may be in Westermann & Bryan (1952) who considered it an isolated language. Richardson (1957) groups it with Bantoid and Williamson (1971) treats it as an isolated subgroup of her Bantu node. Clearly, the Tikar language has always been somewhat problematic in terms of it classification. Dieu & Renaud (1983) placed it together with Ndemli, another language that is hard to classify, although this may be simply an admission of ignorance. Piron (1996,
III:628) recognises it as part of her non-Bantu group and assigns it a co-ordinate branch with Dakoid, Tivoid, Grassfields and the other branches of Bantoid (her ‘South Bantoid’) in opposition to Mambiloid. Stanley (1991) notes that Tikar has many lexical similarities with the neighbouring Bafia (A53) but that the morphosyntax is quite different.
According to historians, anthropologists, archeologists and oral tradition, the Tikar originated from north-eastern Cameroon, around the Adamawa and Lake Chad regions(present-day Adamawa, North and Far-North Provinces). Tikar migration southwards and westwards probably intensified with the raid for slaves by invading Fulani from Northern Nigeria in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, there is reason to believe that such migration was ongoing for centuries long before the invasion. The pressure of invasion by the Fulani raiders certainly occasioned the movements that led the Tikar to their current locations in the Western Grassfields (Bamenda Plateau) and Eastern Grassfields (Fumban) and the Tikar plain of Bankim (Upper Mbam) (Mbuagbaw, Brain & Palmer, 1987:26; Mbaku 2005:10-12). Upon arrival in the Grassfields, the Tikar found other populations in place, populations which had either migrated from elsewhere or had inhabited the region for centuries. Their arrival occasioned population movements, just as did the arrival of others after them. Pre-colonial Cameroon, like the rest of Africa, was richly characterized by population movements not always induced by conflict or invasion.
In the Bamenda Grassfields, those who claim Tikar origin include Nso, Kom, Bum,Bafut, Oku, Mbiame, Wiya, Tang, War, Mbot, Mbem, Fungom, Weh, Mmen, Bamunka, Babungo, Bamessi, Bamessing, Bambalang, Bamali, Bafanji, Baba (Papiakum), Bangola, Big Babanki, Babanki Tungo, Nkwen, Bambili and Bambui. Their alleged migration from the Upper Mbam River region was in waves, and mostly led by princes of Rifum fons, desirous of setting up their own dynasties (Nkwi & Warnier 1982:16; Nkwi1987:15-28). The authors of A History of Cameroon capture the Tikar migration asfollows:
“It was about three hundred years ago that increasing pressure from the north and internal troubles plus the desire for new lands led to the splitting up of Tikar groups into small bands, which, having left Kimi, drifted further west and southwest. Some of these moved under the leadership of the sons of a Tikar ruler who
later called themselves Fons, the most common Bamenda term for paramount chiefs. These groups, at various times reached what is now Mezam. Among the earlier were those who came from Ndobo to the Ndop plain in the south of Bamenda, where they formed small, politically independent villages a few kilometers apart. No semblance of political unity was achieved. In the north-east we have Mbaw, Mbem, and Nsungli, also settlements of Tikar, and below the escarpment of a later date settlements of Wiya, Tang, and War. The main body of this group however, set off under the leadership of their Fon and founded the kingdom of Bum. The Bafut, Kom, and Nsaw were among the last to arrive.” (Mbuagbaw et al. 1987:30).
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah