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Memoirs of a Mbororo: The Life of Ndudi Umaru: Fulani Nomad of Cameroon

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Volume 5

Cameroon Studies

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Memoirs of a Mbororo

The Life of Ndudi Umaru: Fulani Nomad of Cameroon

Henri Bocquené
Translated from the French by Philip Burnham

320 pages, 30 photos, 1 map, glossary

ISBN  978-1-57181-844-7 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (December 2002)

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


"This books has the advantage of being an enumeration of rich detail about a Fulani nomad society and a skillfully told personal narrative, a rearity in the literature of disappearing societies."  · International Journal of African History

"Dear Father Bocquené, Your Mbororo are certainly very different from mine (except perhaps in their taste for self-ornamentation). But that hasn't prevented me from reading your book with enchantment: this is life, this is the reality. Without belonging to the profession, you have produced one of the masterworks of ethnographic literature. Rich and precise information, accompanied by penetrating insights, emerge from each page - not in the form of arid data but integrated with the unfolding of an individual existence. One feels a little bit Mbororo after having read your book."  · Claude Lévi-Strauss

Praise for the French edition:

"A document of an exceptional richness and originality. It returns to the ethnological experience a renewed reality and authenticity."  · Christiane Seydou, C.N.R.S. (Centre nationale de recherche scientifique), Paris

"This work has certainly considerably advanced our knowledge of African culture."   · Radio Vatican

"This is a document of rare human density; an account like this one, one does not read but devours it."   · La Croix - L'Evènement

"This book is an extraordinary history, unlike any other ethnological work."   · Ouest-France

"This is the most African book I have ever read. It has fascinated me from the first page."   · Hubert von Lindener, Professor at Münster University

"This is an extraordinary book. I have read it with enormous pleasure. It is one of the best books I have ever read."   · Karen Bennike, Professor of French, University of Copenhagen>


This remarkable book recounts the life of Ndudi Umaru, a pastoral nomadic Fulani, who was born in the Nigeria-Cameroon border zone, but spent most of his life in Cameroon where he was treated for leprosy. Left to his own devices at an early age—his illness having separated him from his kith and kin—Ndudi is befriended by Père Boquené, a French missionary who takes him on as a field assistant. Working closely with the young man, Père Boquené realizes Ndudi is a keen observer of his own pastoral society, with its links to a wider social setting, and suggests he record his observations on tape. The result is a rare and sensitive collaboration, which sheds new insight into the world of the Mbororo and the complex and ever-changing social mosaic of West African savanna societies. Ndudi's leprosy and his efforts to find a cure grant him the necessary perspective to analyze this complex world, while still remaining a part of it.

For the western public, the Mbororo have often been the photogenic subjects of "Disappearing World" documentaries or glossy coffee table books. However, this account renders "the exotic" comprehensible, preserving the cultural authenticity of Ndudi's story while making this unique world more accessible to outsiders.

Henri Bocquené served as a Catholic missionary in Cameroon for many years and was renowned for his sympathetic understanding of the Fulani.

Subject: Anthropology (General) Colonial History Memory Studies Literary Studies
Area: Africa


List of Illustrations

Preface to the English Translation
Philip Burnham 

Letter from Claude Lévi-Strauss  

Preface to French Edition
Christiane Seydou

Henri Bocquené

Preliminary Note

Chapter 1. My First Memories of Childhood
Chapter 2. From Day to Day
Chapter 3. And the Seasons Pass
Chapter 4. Passing the Evenings
Chapter 5. Our Grandmothers’ Stories
Chapter 6. Illness
Chapter 7. Seasonal Migration and the Wet Season Camp
Chapter 8. Family Festivals
Chapter 9. A Village Interlude
Chapter 10. A Return to the Nomadic Life
Chapter 11. Memories of Seasonal Migrations
Chapter 12. A Stay in Gire
Chapter 13. The Soro of the Adolescents
Chapter 14. From Village to Village
Chapter 15. Memorable Events
Chapter 16. The Dance and the Wodabe
Chapter 17. The Spectacle at the Market Place
Chapter 18. Marriage and Weddings
Chapter 19. Mbororo Marriage
Chapter 20. Divorce and Widowhood
Chapter 21. Religion
Chapter 22. Pulaku
Chapter 23. Magic and Sorcery
Chapter 24. New Horizons
Chapter 25. My Uncle and His Herds
Chapter 26. Settled at Djohong
Chapter 27. Family Visits

End Notes

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