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Versuch einer Analyse der sozialen Struktur der Matakam

Paul Hinderling
Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Vol. 25, No. 4 (Oct., 1955), pp. 405-426
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1156878
Page Count: 22
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Versuch einer Analyse der sozialen Struktur der Matakam
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Abstract

The Social Structure of the Matakam. The Matakam, a patrilineal tribe of about 80,000 people, live in the extreme north of the French Cameroons. Their geographical environment is a high plateau, broken by fairly steep and isolated hills. Each of their settlements is grouped around a hill and has an average population of 1,500. The smallest effective residential unit is the compound, consisting of a number of huts surrounded by a fence. This is the home of an elementary, or of a compound polygynous family. More rarely, the compound includes the grown-up sons of the family head, together with their wives and children. The family constitutes an economic unit. At its head is a house-father or "bab'gay" who, in addition to his own work, supervises that of his family. This working unit generally also includes a number of young men who are not related to the "bab'gay" by kinship but who intend to marry his daughters. The staple crop is millet, but a number of subsidiary crops and household vegetables are grown. Millet is planted by women and children and harvested by the men. Women are responsible for the production of subsidiary crops. The "bab'gay" keeps millet in a special store and daily allocates portions of it to members of his household. Milk is not consumed. Meat has little importance in the daily diet, but it is greatly desired and regarded as a luxury. Meat is usually eaten only on ritual occasions, when a sacrifice has been made. For minor ritual occasions chickens are slaughtered, for more important ones goats and sheep. The "bab'gay" usually buys a bull from the Fulbe people, and this is kept in a special stall and fed by the "bab'gay" himself. Every three years these animals are ritually slaughtered at a bull festival. All the members of a hill-settlement gather on these occasions, and outsiders also have an opportunity to make the acquaintance of prospective wives. Economically the Matakam are almost self-sufficient, but there is a certain amount of trade. Iron tools, weapons, and ornaments are highly valued. These are locally manufactured by smiths, who also have important ritual functions in the life of the tribe. Three or four families of smiths live on each hill-side. The "bab'gay" represents his family in relation to the ancestors, and on certain appointed days he offers them food and drink. The ancestors are thought to be responsible for the fertility of men and beasts. Illness is a sign that they are angry and must be placated by a sacrifice. Matakam compounds are usually grouped together so as to form a ' quarter'. The corresponding kinship unit is the patrilineage, consisting of an ancestor and all his descendants in the male line, both living and dead. A lineage is known by the name of its founder, but descent from him cannot always be traced in detail. The lineage is often divided into a number of sub-lineages, but these have no special name. The head of the senior sub-lineage is usually head of the lineage as a whole, but when he dies there is a complicated system of succession. In theory, he is succeeded by the head of the second senior sub-lineage, then by the third, until eventually leadership returns to the original sub-lineage. But in practice these rules are rarely followed and their function is rather to provide a well-defined category of males from among whom, on the basis of personal qualities, a lineage head may be chosen. The lineage head has important ritual functions and is regarded as the representative of the whole lineage in relation to the ancestors. Nowadays kinship and residential units no longer strictly coincide, and a number of strangers are found in each quarter. The quarter has therefore tended to become a political and administrative unit, and as such it is recognized by the French authorities. At times all the residents on a particular hill-side belong to one lineage, and in this case lineage and clan may be said to coincide. More often a number of different lineages reside on each hill-side, who together form a clan. The formal head of such a clan is the head of the senior lineage, but his position nowadays has a ritual rather than a political significance. The French administration often do not even know who these men are, and their practice is to appoint chiefs of their own, who act as intermediaries between them and the African population. Both clan and lineage are exogamous and in addition a man must not marry a woman belonging to either his mother's or his grandmother's clan. It is therefore necessary to go outside one's own hill-settlement in order to find a wife, and various festivals and ritual occasions provide opportunities for this. In the old days feuds among the various clans seem to have been common and then the existence of a large number of affinal relatives, by definition neutral, had an important place in arbitration. Smiths have a structurally important place in this system. They are outside the ordinary kinship system and are regarded as forming a special small ' clan ' of their own. A smith is allowed to marry only a girl who belongs to another smith's family, and does not belong to either his wife's or his father's clan. Apart from their ordinary work, smiths act as undertakers, preside at funerals and death-feast ceremonies, and are consulted before a sacrifice is made. They practise divination, produce magical medicines and are generally regarded as intermediaries between ordinary people and the supernatural powers. A smith's wife makes pottery and acts as a midwife. Smiths are feared and respected and ordinary people will not eat with them or taste food prepared by a smith's wife.

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