|Chapter I THE PEOPLES OF BAMENDA DISTRIBUTION OF MAIN ETHNIC GROUPS |
BEFORE we examine the economy of Bamenda and its bearing on the position of women, a somewhat detailed account of the history, ethnic character and distribution of the peoples is necessary since very little information has been published. The total population of the Province as given in the Annual Report for 948 is 301,000; but this is estimated from figures for adult taxable males, the last census having been taken in 1931. The people are negroid, with possibly a northern strain in some of the Tikar tribes. They vary considerably in physique; but, in general, those of the uplands appear to be taller, wirier, and of better build than those of the forest, where malaria, filaria, yaws, goitre and elephantiasis are prevalent.
Apart from the analysis of the Nkom language by the Rev. Father Bruens, very little linguistic research has been done in Bamenda. The Basel Mission has translated the New Testament into Bali, and the Roman Catholic Mission has made some study of the language of Nsaw and produced a catechism in Nkom. The languages of Bamenda have hitherto been classified as Benue-Cross River (or semi-Bantu) and the Tikar placed in the Bafumbum-Bansaw group. But, in a recent set of articles dealing with a reclassification of West African languages, Greenberg has suggested that Bali, Bafut and Ndob (and presumably this would be extended to the dialects spoken by other Tikar peoples in Bamenda) are Bantu. But a definitive classification must wait on further research, as well as the publication of the results of the linguistic field survey of the northern Bantu Borderland now being carried out from the French Cameroons.