Koma tribe: A brief walk into the lives of an ancient ethnic group

They don’t use matches to make fire, but rub stones together to ignite the fire.

Koma Tribe (Smithsonian Magazine)

It is said the name, "Koma" means to go back.

For reasons too obvious to ignore, some have described the Koma people as ancient. Others, in their own observation, have termed them primitive. Whichever the case maybe, the Koma people have refused to tag along with civilization.

Located in the Atlantika Mountains of Adamawa state, the Koma ethnic group are made up of people who are entirely committed to their traditional culture.

They share a boarder with Cameroon and are divided into three main groups: the hill-dwelling Beya and Ndamti, and the Vomni and Verre lowlanders.

Like the Efiks of south-eastern Nigeria, the Koma people are also separated politically; There are 21 Koma villages in the Cameroonian side of the Alantika Mountains and 17 villages on the Nigerian side.

It is, however, important to note that with an estimated number of 62, 000 speakers, the Koma people speak their own language known as Koma; a language of the Niger-Congo family.

And as mentioned earlier, the Komas are committed to their tradition. They still use traditional salt (Mangul) produced from the hills for cooking. They don’t use matches to make fire, but rub stones together to ignite the fire.

They also use some special oil produced via a natural technology and other forms of foods not common to other ethnic groups around the state.

However, a touch of civilization can be seen; as the youths in resettled areas wear modern clothes. Nevertheless, a large percentage of the people still clad themselves in their traditional dress, using leaves and animal skins that barely cover their vital parts.

The men wear loincloths and women wear fresh leaves.

Another interesting thing about the Koma people is that in line with their custom, inheritance is in the maternal lineage.

At a woman's death, the daughters inherit her livestock, her farms, domestic utensils such as artifacts for body decorations, beads, pigments and decorated hoes. Any forms of nut products are regarded as a woman's exclusive property, while bows and arrows belong to the first son of the deceased male.

Sadly, it is said that a twin birth is regarded as evil, and twins are considered abominable so much so that until recently babies of multiple births used to be buried alive with the women who had the 'misfortune' of being their mothers.

The Koma people believe in the existence of a supreme being variously called Zum or Nu. These words are also used for the sun. The neighboring Chamba also use the same word Su for the sun, as well as for Almighty God.

In order to get what man likes within the unalterable wheel of God's arrangements, the Koma recognise the powers of local deities such as Kene which can be appealed to for health, vitality, and fertility.

Each hamlet and household has her Ken, shrine under the charge of male ritual functionaries, Kene-Mari who is assisted by male prophets, Kpani.

The occupation of the Koma hill-dwellers centres around farming, hunting, and gathering. Except for hunting, both men and women engage in cultivation, weeding and gathering.

Women often have their own farms separate from their male counterparts. However, both cooperate at appropriate times in helping with each others' farms.


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