Kingdom of Kom (page 3)

Kom has a mixed economy and predominantly agricultural comprising mainly of farming, small scale stock keeping and trade. Agricultural production is largely in the hands of woman who produce enough food for domestic consumption. Men assist in clearing of farms plots and in the harvest of corps. Kom is also noted for the production of utensils, carvings of masks and furniture as well as architectural occupations.

Arts and Carvings
Kom people are artistically gifted in carving powerful masks in human and animal figures which are used in ceremonies for the dead or public manifestations. During the ceremonies, the people play beautiful vigorous rhythms with drums and flute accompanied by a masquerade of spectacular bare-feet dancers dressed in heavily embroidered robes with their faces covered.

A tribe is an independent social group especially in Africa, claiming or occupying a particular territory and sharing a common ancestry, culture, traditions, customs and leadership. Or an ethnic group with a common language and same cultural origins. The Kom tribe is made up of lineage groups.

A village is a unit of traditional government; it is found in the rural areas of Cameroon and is made up of wards or quarters. The quarters are made up of individual compounds or households, with a village-head, quarter-head or compound-head. The village has a council which is presided over by a village-head who reports to the Fon or king in matters of traditional government. Or; a village is a compact local unit spread over a limited area and has natural boundaries -- hills and rivers. Each village is linked to an illustrious founder whose name is sometimes borne by his successor. The village is usually portioned out into wards which are compact aggregates of 10 to 30 homesteads. Every ward has a name and a leader who is usually the descendant of the founder.

Each village is a self-governing community presided over by the village-head and assisted by the council of elders. The council of elders is composed of ward-heads as well as intelligent and influential men whose wisdom had seasoned them for political role in village affairs. Age and wealth are also determinant factors. They command respect, honor and high esteem to sit in the village council, deliberate village affairs and adjudicate cases. They must understand the law and tradition of the village. Elderhood in village life is paramount.

The village-head is the political and spiritual leader of all the wards which own their existence and persistence to the generosity of the founder and his successors who had granted the land for settlement.

The office of the village-head is hereditary and not elective though there are some democratic elements in the choice and installations of successors to village headships. The Fon enjoys the right to ratify succession to certain village headships, but all village-heads once chosen and installed are required to pay a visit to the Fon bringing gifts and accompanied by sons and village elders. This is in recognition of the Fon’s territorial authority.

Compound or Homestead
A compound is the smallest unit of administration; it is the homestead that houses a man, his wife or wives and children. A compound is separated from other households by free fence, within this concession a man plants economic crops, such as, coffee, avocado, cola nuts, bananas, plantains and trees, and keeps his fowls and goats. In fact, a compound in Kom has a deeper meaning.

“Homesteads vary in size and usually have two to four houses built on elevated verandahs. Only the wealthy had 5 to 10 houses in their homesteads and in exceptional cases there are about 30 houses in some homesteads. The general structure of the homestead stresses the unity and stability of the domestic group under the village-head. The layout of the village head’s homesteads is fashioned into miniature capital having two to three courtyards for assemblies.”

Source: Traditional Government and Social Change: A study of the Political Institutions among the Kom of the Cameroon Grassfields by Dr. Paul Nchoji Nkwi, 1976.

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