Fali people, Cameroon, early 20th century, private collection from Finland.
The Fali people inhabit mainly the rocky plateaus ringed by northernmost peaks of the Adamawa mountains of northern Cameroon, but some Fali also live in northeastern Nigeria. They divide themselves into four large groups, each corresponding to a geographic region: the Fali of Bossoum, the Kangou Fali, the Fali Tinguelin, and those of Peské-Bori, four different appellations that correspond to as many territorial units. The Fali are sometimes referred to as the "Kirdi" meaning "pagan", a term given by the neighboring Muslim Fulani; after they fought against the Jihadists and rejected Islam. "Fali " is a Fulani word meaning "perched" and describes the appearence of Fali family compounds on the sides of mountains.
The Fali people are farmers and hunter-gatherers. For centuries they have known how to utilize the mountains to grow the plants that constitute their basic foods. Their principal crops are sorghum, chickpeas, millet, beans, sesame and peanuts.
The Fali believe in a single, very abstract supreme god (called Faw or Fao). A male being, he has willed order and harmony, and he intervenes only when they are disturbed. The centre of religious life is the cult of the ancestors. The prayers to Faw are not addressed to him, but to the consecrated ancestors, who are the intercessors of men with him. There are also mother goddess (called Ona), the Earth. The religion also includes belief in supernatural beings, including the sacred crocodiles of heaven, guardians of light and thunder, the black snake, master of darkness, genies and other spirits.
In each villages there are one or several "masters of earth", a "master of rain", and a "master of hunting", as well as, in each clan, a diviner (called tondji pangu). There are also village priests. The secret society "Niakt Kolshodba" ("that which is not talked about now") is responsible of ridding society of injurious beings like sorcerers, evil spirits and malignant entities.
This old amulet or pectoral is made of bronze alloy by forging. Curious hook-shaped amulet engraved with a linear decoration and geometric designs. Pectorals like this were worn by village diviner or priests as display of wealth and were also used as currency for important transactions. Good condition. Age-related wear and signs of use. Beautiful dark patina. Dust and dirt. Size approx. 20,5cm x 17,0cm.