SHA’PAM: WHEN THE SULTAN KING RECEIVES POWERS FROM THE PEOPLE

It is during the ritual ceremony which is held on the 2nd day of the traditional Nguon in Bamoun country and which materializes the transmission of the products of the pharmacopoeia and mystical powers to the sultan to strengthen his power and help him save the life of the kingdom.

The day has just risen on Saturday under Foumban’ sky in the Noun division, West Region of Cameroon. The first rays of sunshine can be seen in the great courtyard of the Bamoun kings’ palace, already black with people. Guests come from all over the country and the Diaspora. There are traditional leaders, economic operators, administrative authorities, diplomats, tourists and Bamoun nationals. They came in large numbers to experience the Sha’Pam live.

This ritual ceremony which materializes the transmission of powers to the king is thus held on the second day of the traditional Nguon. It is heavy with symbols and attracts many eyes. While the discussions are going well between the guests, here is the sound of trumpets and bugles. The entry of the Sultan King of the Bamoun is announced. The passage of His Majesty was greeted by some knee flexion, gunshots and drums. He then takes his place in front of the audience. He is surrounded by guards, notables and close collaborators. Njimonchare is part of this close circle. Throughout the history of the Bamoun people, the latter, who have carried this honorary title since Nchare Yen, the founder of the dynasty, has the heavy responsibility of watching over the sultan, the FonaNguon and the sacred bags.

Opposite, the FonaNguon (Nguon chiefs) formed a long row. These special envoys of the TitaNguon, the holders of the secret societies, come from the different regions of the Noun department. There are around 100 secret societies in all, according to figures put forward by insiders. The FonaNguon are dressed for the occasion in traditional outfits and carry a large basket on their back. They hold a long stick firmly in their right hand and a sacred straw sack in their left hand. “The Titanguon are like the deputies of the kingdom. They consult the people and their powers (power of the people) are in the bag. When the king puts his hand in it (sha’pam) it means that he takes the power given to him by the Bamoun people. Precisely when he puts his hand, he takes out a product that he puts in his own bag. It thus brings together more than a hundred products that make its own power powerful, ”explains Nji Fompehou Amadou, a ritual leader from the Nguon. The bag of this TitaNguon dates from around 1810. During Sha’Pam, the Sultan King is thus enriched by new discoveries of the pharmacopoeia and mystical powers that strengthen his power.

According to some sources, when the king puts his hand in the sacred bag presented to him, he cancels the power of the holder of the secret society. Only the power of the king remains. Returning power to the Sultan the Manshut Toupanka, the leader of the royal army, first took the trouble to check the sacred bags before they are presented to the king. Once near the Sultan, the FonaNguon bend down and show what they have brought as most valuable to help maintain life and help the kingdom run smoothly. His Majesty the Sultan King plunges his hand blindly inside the sacred bags. Ordinary people do not have the ability to see what is transferred from one bag to another. Ritual songs accompany this highlight in the life of the kingdom, which has spanned over 600 years of history.

“The Sha’Pam is the very symbol of the Nguon. It is a major ritual of the Nguon which restores power to the Sultan King to return to being chief for a two-year term,” states Nji Fompehou Amado. Once the Sha’Pam ritual is complete, the king must return to the interior of the palace to put on formal attire. He must return to the ceremonial court, not far from the Central Market, to take part in his judgment in public. This very popular trial is another highlight of the traditional and cultural Nguon festival. At the end of this trial, the Ta’ngou (Minister of Justice) will pronounce the sentence which may invalidate or renew the chief in his sovereign functions. The FonaNguon, who arrived at the palace since the day before Friday, are also at the heart of this other ritual ceremony.

Mathias Mouendé Ngamo

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