The Muyeng (Cameroon)

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First mentioning of the name ‘Moyung’ (Muyeng) appears in Denham 1926 (1985:175). Rohlfs (1875:50) mentions the ‘Muengdje’ (Muyeng). Moisel (1912-13, map 1:300,000) speaks of ‘Mujenge’ Muyeng referring to the name of the massif. No etymology of the name Muyeng has been brought to our knowledge so far. The founding ancestor’s name of the dominant clan of the Muyeng is ‘Anohay’ (Richard 1977:36) or ‘Anouai’ (R. Lukas 1973:11), and no lineage of any of his descendants seems to carry a name from which the ethnic name Muyeng can be derived. However, the name of the language is muyang (Barreteau 1984:165), which allows us to assume that the ethnic name reflects the name of the dialect they speak.

The Muyeng inselberg is situated about 5 km east of the cliffs of the Northern Mandaras with the Mada as their western neighbours. The Muyang massif consists of three main blocks: the Mont Mouyingue in the west 850 m high, the Mont Gouada-Gouada 841 m, and Mont Mouyen in the northeast (Richard 1977:30). The massif stretches about 6 km from west to east. The cantons Muyeng and Palbara belong to the arrondissement Tokombere, department Mayo Sava.



The population figures found in the literature vary a lot. Hallaire & Barral 1957:57) counts for 1961, 6,888 Muyeng, but Hallaire (1991:26) speaks only of 5,411. Boulet et al (1984:119) count 9,000 Muyeng, whereas SIL (1982) speaks of 15,000. According to Hallaire (1991,fig5) the population density of the Muyeng is between 40 and 99 inhabitants per square km.

Barreteau (1984:168ff) classifies muyang together with wuzlam (Uldeme), mada and melokwo (Mokyo-Molkwo) as a dialect of mafa-south. The SIL website ethnologue mentions muyang as one dialect of Biu-Mandara, A5.



Richard (1977:36) informs us that the Muyeng recognise ‘Anohay’ as their founding ancestor. Anohay, who is of Uldeme origine, left the Mandara capital Doulo because of famine and other troubles. Together with his wife he took refuge on the mountain of Muyeng. His clan moved on to Uldeme. The Muyeng and Uldeme are closely related. Anohay had three sons, but because the oldest was circumcised he left him to stay with the Mandara. His brothers Asio and Tchewi stayed and became ancestors of fourteen lineages (ibid).

There are only a few lineages who don’t trace their descent from Anohay. The most important are the local kin groups Gadray, Guejekre and Mazama. They are seen as the autochtonous inhabitants of Muyeng. There are also lineages who came from Mboko and Molkwo. According to Richard (ibid) all Muyeng only respect one person as their traditional politico-religious representative (till 1977 this was ‘le grand pretre Nglissa’), which points to the Muyeng constructing ethnic unity for themselves.

Blench (2009), in an unpublished article (see reference below), claims "Baka" to be a highly endangered separate language and not a Muyeng lineage as previously claimed by Richard (1977).

First article published on the ethnography of the Muyeng is by R. Lukas (1973a). Richard’s (1977) monograph on the ‘Traditions et coutumes matrimoniales de Mada et Muyeng’ has become the main ethnographic source. Surprisingly, Richard does not refer to R. Lukas article. R. Lukas refers (1973b:11,113) to the founding ancestor ‘Anouai’ (Anohay) as being a descendent of the Maya of Doulo, which contradicts Richard (ibid), who refers to him as being of Uldeme origin. Blench, R., (2009) 'Baka wordlist' (unpublished).


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