This paper is based on materials which were collected by the author during research conducted over a 10 month period between 1978-1979 and 1982, among the Bamun in Cameroon, Central Africa.
Firstly, the author intends to describe the present situation of saving associations Puomsha Gba
at Magenfa, a village 25km north of the capital Fumban in Bamun political domain.
Here, it is necessary to make clear the geographical and political position of Magenfa where a saving association can be observed. The kingdom of Bamun has a three-graded political domain characterized by concentric circles with the center being the royal capital of Fumban. Fumban is in the central core of Bamun territory where the King of Bamun always stays. The second concentric circle, i. e. the second political domain is called shishet ngu
meaning the nuclear part of the kingdom, where the past princes, the royal families and their descendents have always lived. The last and biggest concentric circle is called ngu
meaning ‘a whole country’, where the last Bamun kings had conquerred many little chiefdoms.
The village of Magenfa is located in the nuclear part of the Kingdom, shishet ngu
. Although this political area has relations with the Bamun kingship, the village chief of Magenfa does not have the title of nji
; a term used to identify the real son (s) of the king of Bamun. Therefore, Magenfa does not have direct relations with the Bamun kingship.
Ultimately, the author intends to analyse the following items through the description of the saving association in a Bamun village.
(a) the social organization of the saving association and constitution of its members
(b) regulation and activities in a saving association
(c) relationship between family structure and the saving association
(d) relationship between inter-village relation and the saving association
(e) whether or not there exists an ‘indirect’ relationship between the saving association in Magenfa and the Bamun kingship, regardless of an apparent direct relationship between them. Analysis revealed 4 principles summarized below.
(1) The generalized reciprocity, observed among hunter—gatherers as defined by Sahlins, can be observed in the activities of the saving association, but with much more organized and much more ordered regulation. Each member pays attention to the others' poverty and requests for help in order that his own requests may be fulfilled in the future.
(2) Activites of the saving association develops members' sociability and strongly promotes friendship and co-operation not only in daily village life but also in inter-village relations. Furthermore, these activities prevent members from displaying anti-social behaviour which might disturb the social harmony. They also prevent individuals from deviation or ‘drop out’ behaviour, as if members in a community were afraid of being accused of being a ‘witch’.
(3) The saving association prevents social and psychological friction between husband and co-wives or amongst co-wives, because a large amount of money from a saving association fulfills the many requirements of co-wives each of whom forms an economic unit together with her children. Therefore, the saving association functions to complement distortion of family structure caused by the husband's inability to respond to the various needs of co-wives. It can also be said to support and strengthen the system of polygamy and the structure of polyandry.
(4) From a cultural point of view, the people are able to identify with the king of Bamun or the Bamun kingship through the activities of a saving association; such as drinking ‘zu
’ meaning palm wine, which is traditionally used in the King's coronation ritual.