The Wula & Muduvu



First mentioning of ‘Wula’ is by Zimmermann (1906:463) followed by Strumpell (1912:65). The latter mentions ‘Wula and Sugur’ as hiding places for Fulbe chiefs of Madagali (Baewue and Yidda/Njidda) after being defeated by the Mandara during the first half of the 18th century. Duisburg mentions the ‘Wola’ (Duisburg 1927:194) of the ‘Dissa’-inselberg near Kerawa. Martin (1970:31) says that Denham speaks of ‘Hulla-Matakam’, but there is only one place in Denham’s ‘Expedition to Mandara’ (1985:162f) in April 1823, which could be mistaken for ‘Hulla’. This is the place where Boo-Khaloom (Denham’s Arab companion from Tripoli) insists that a group of pagans who came down the mountains were Christians: “Wolla Insara, [meaning] they are Christians!” (ibid) said Boo-Khaloom to Denham, although he agreed with Denham that they didn’t look like Christians. Boo-Khaloom’s ‘Wolla’ means ‘by Allah’ and not Wula, while ‘Insara’ means non-Moslems. Moisel’s map (1912-13) mentions ‘Ula-Maskote’ (Moskota moutain southeast of Kerawa). Muller-Kosack (1999) is of the opinion that Wula was first used by the Mandara to refer to the pagan of the Mandara mountains as non-Moslems. The literal meaning is not known.

The Wula Mango and Wula Hanko east of Sukur adopted the name Wula as their autonym (Muller-Kosack, fieldnotes 1996), presumably under the influence of the Wandala before the arrival of the Fulbe . First mentioning of ‘Wula-Mango (Wula Digal)’ and ‘Wula-Hanko’ is by Mathews (1934:6). Also Moisel (1912-13) mentions ‘Wula’ east of ‘Ssugur’ on his map. Meek (1931,I:280) publishes a word list of ‘Higi-Wula’. Muller-Kosack (1997:74) is of the opinion that ‘Hulla-Matakam’ is a 20th century invention possibly by neighbours of the Mafa in order to distinguish the Mafa from the Wula Mango and Wula Hanko by doubling these originally derogative terms. Muller-Kosack (fieldnotes 1997) reports that the Mandara of Kerawa say that the word Wula means the same as Kirdi (non-believer from a Moslem perspective). The inhabitants of former slave settlements in Borno State are often referred to as ‘Wula’. They have nothing to do with the Wula Hanko or Wula Mango. The ‘Muduvu’ (Sterner 1998:89) are neighbours of the Wula and Sukur, but claim to be closer to the Wula than to the Sukur.


The Wula Hanko and Wula Mango live in the mountains east of Sukur. Their western neigbours are the Mabas and their northern neigbours are the Vizik. They are also neigbours to the Mafa and Kapsiki. Muller-Kosack (fieldnotes 1996) reports that originially both Wula Hanko and Wula Mango lived on the Nigerian side, but due to baboons, almost all Wula Hanko left for Cameroon. Wula Mango belongs to the Madagali Local Government Area. The Muduvu, too, live in the Madagali Local Government Area.


No population figures are currently accessible for the Wula Hanko and Wula Mango. Muller-Kosack (1999) believes that there are not more than a couple of hundred. The Muduvu, too, are a very small group.


Meek (1931,I:280) classifies Wula as a Higi (Kamwe) dialect. Blench (1999) classifies Wula under Kamwe. SIL says that Wula is either a dialect of Kamwe (Higi), Psikye (Kapsiki) or Hya (Amsa). Barreteau (1984:168) classifies Wula as a subgroup of Margi. The Muduvu speak a dialect of Sakun (Sukur).


Muller-Kosack (1999) refers to the Wula Hanko and Wula Mango as Wula proper in order to distinguish them from the so-called ‘Wula-Matakam’ or Mafa. Muller-Kosack (fieldnotes 1996) informs us that the Wula claim to be closer to the Sukur because of the Gudur tradition they share. Wula proper have a similar architecture and religious customs (e.g. initiation) to the so-called Bulahay groups (Mefele and Shugule). They also claim that they were originally close to the so-called Matakam or Mafa-Bulahay before the coming of the Mafa of Soulede. This is confirmed by Muller-Kosack (1997) who informs us that the Wula-Sakon are the first comers in the area of Guzda (east of Mount Ziver). The Muduvu claim to be culturally close to the Wula proper.


Mathews (1934) is the first who refers to the Wula proper as an independent group. No ethnography of the Wula proper has been written so far. Muller-Kosack (1999) is of the opinion that the Wula are a key group for the study of the history of ethnic distribution in the centre of the Northern Mandaras. For Muduvu see Sterner (1998).