Ritual use of currency in Laimbwe history, Cameroon
The advent of Europeans in Cameroon in the 15th century and the introduction of a Western currency as a standard of exchange and a measurement of value to replace other indigenous currencies, had an impact on initiation into regulatory and entertainment societies in Cameroonian communities, including the Laimbwe communities of the North West Region of Cameroon. Male and female institutions eventually began using these currencies during initiation rites. These included nwerong, ngiri, ngumba, takembeng, ndofoumgbui, kwifoyn (also kwifo’o, kwifeu, kuiifuai) kefa’a, tschong, libah and ikuum in the grasslands and Liengu, male, ahon, muankum, nganya, monekim, ekpe and obasinjom in the forest region of Cameroon. Prior to the introduction of standard money, some local currencies like cowry shells were used together with the provision of material things like goats, pigs, fowls and bush meat. Money is effectively a measure of value, status and a store of wealth within the Laimbwe traditional milieu. This paper examines how and why the introduction of money in initiation and other ritual activities, led to the emergence of new social classes and the re-enforcement of the socio-political order of the Laimbwe people. The study essentially relies on discussions with members of societies, observation and written material.
Kewords: Rituals, Currency, Laimbwe, History, Cameroon