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01 Jun 2015

CO-WIVES BY CHARLOTTE YONGA

In the region of West Cameroon, the Bamiléke country, the customs of the tribal leader continue to this day. Charlotte Yonga has long been interested in this lasting tradition and the respect of the Bamilékés for their chief. The chieftainships functioned like micro sovereign states until 1960, when the state of Cameroon was created. Today, it is not at all unusual to find the Bamilékés turning towards their chief rather than referring to official institutions. He is considered as the incarnation of the Divine Source, both political and judiciary, the intermediary between the living and their ancestors. Charlotte met the chief Nayang Toukam, the last time she was in the Cameroon. He warmly welcomed her and introduced her to his numerous wives and children. In Bamiléké, the chiefs are traditionally polygamous, and for the most part they "inherit" their fathers's wives. Charlotte's work Co-wives is the result of meeting these women, whose status is unique, all sharing the role of the Queen. They are the "mothers," the confidants, and the listening ear to whom the people address themselves when the Chief is absent or too hard on them. One of these women will give birth to the heir to the "Fôh," (king) who will become the next leader, ensuring continuity and the promise of a harmonious future.