Chamba Religion

Doctrines The Chamba of Nigeria/Cameroon believe in a cosmic world in which the interaction between God, the dead, the creatures of the wild and the 'children of men', constitute a common arena of daily concern. In that habitual life, God (Su), associated with the sun (su), and the dead (creatures of the past who live below), interact with men and 'things of the bush'. All that happens in the world takes place because of God's will, and is also ordered by him.
The dead (wurumbu), while living under the ground, follow the same lifestyle of humans, as they live in houses, keep livestock, follow certain paths in their way to market and so on. However, they are richer, wiser and more powerful than humans. Only a certain category of people, seers (lit. 'persons with eyes') are able to see what is happening to the dead, for example if they are angry, while the living can only see the convulsions of the seer, as ordinary people do not have 'eyes' to see the dead.

History Up to 1809, and the Fulani official declaration of religious war (jihad), the Chamba lived in several chiefdoms populated by Leko-speaking Chamba, around the Faro and Deo rivers. They eventually became raiding bands, and integrated different groups that began to consider themselves as Chamba. By the end of the 18th century the territorial boundaries of Chamba communities had been redefined, causing these communities to redefine themselves internally. Three main events triggered change: the Leko diaspora, the Fulani effort to conquer Adamawa, and the general search for refuge in central Chambaland.
Eventually the Chamba became refugees of neighbouring peoples after 1809, when Modibbo Adama, the first emir of Adawawa (Fombina, the most eastern emirate), received a flag at the Caliphate capital of Sokoto. He then moved to a place called Gurin, where he became Lamido (area leader) of the emirate of the south, Fombina or Adamawa. That call to holy war had already been issued from Gobir in 1804. By the 1830s, the Fulani had conquered some chiefdoms in order to push further south. Thirty years later, the Fulani penetrated the Nassarawo Plain. In mid-century, the Yola Fulani attempted to secure their hold on the plain by establishing more settlements, and by sending Hamidu, the son of Adama, to found the village of Nyibango. As a result of those conflicts, the Chamba were pushed further south into the mountains, as the Fulani strived to create a certain stability in the region, in order to allow trade caravans to pass through the area.
By 1886, Britain and Germany divided the spoils in Chambaland, thus by 1893 the 'Yola arc' was demarcated, and Britain gained control of Yola, while Germany acquired the Fulani subchiefdoms to the south, that were normally subjected to the Emirate authority. Since that time, Chamba speaking peoples have been located in villages of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Symbols Many of Chamba symbols relate to their constant 'management' of jup, somehow potentially dangerous agents that need to be controlled. Therefore, materially, those agents are present through 'things' (jup pen), or performances such as libations and sacrifices. Dances, songs, noises, gourd horns, rattle sacks of basketry, iron rattles and bullroarers are symbols of their presence. Other objects such as coloured stones, figurative statues, shells, animal skulls, and animal figures are hidden under pots, and they are symbols of the possible control and apacement achieved by humans on different jup.
There are several forms of masks and animal forms that are used in public ritual performances, and that symbolize the habitual interaction between the creatures of the wild and the children of men.

Adherents No official figures available.

Main Centre
 Eastern Nigeria, Northwestern Cameroon.