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