Nguon, rituals of governance and associated expressions in the Bamoun community


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Fondation Roi Njoya, Cameroun, 2022

Nguon refers to a series of rituals between the Mfon, or monarch, and his people. Aimed at promoting dialogue, harmony and peace, the rituals are observed over a period of three days by the Bamoun community of Cameroon’s West Region. Every two years in early December, ritual chiefs consult the members of the community on the state of the kingdom. Carrying the collected opinions, they enter the palace at night and in secret, on the agreed Friday, to talk with the Mfon. The following day, the monarch attends a public ‘trial’ on his governance, with ritual chiefs reading out indictments based on the community’s feedback. The Mfon may receive fines or even be removed from office. If granted a new mandate, he delivers an acceptance speech and receives the renewal of allegiance. Popular celebrations follow, culminating on Sunday with a parade and the monarch’s triumphant return to the palace. The practice is transmitted informally within families, groups and secret societies, as well as by the local radio station and Cameroon’s schools and universities. Over six hundred years old, the Nguon rituals are seen as a source of social cohesion and resilience and as a means of upholding values such as accountability, freedom of expression and humility.