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Sunday, December 4, 2022

King Njoya, the king who invented a system of writing in Cameroon

King Ibrahim Njoya was King of the Bamum people and the Kingdom of Northern Cameroon in the fourteenth century. He ruled from the ancient walled city of Fumban.

In 1895, he invented a system of writing with 510 pictograph characters to preserve the history of his people and kingdom.

He invented the Bamum script, a semi-syllabic system for writing in the Bamum language. Before his rule, Bamum history was mainly passed down orally from generation to generation; in the manner of the African Griot tradition

He also made a map of his country, a religious book, and a book on medicine and local pharmacopeia.

He established the first 47 schools to teach the Bamum reading and writing in his sixth script in 1912. In 1913 he commissioned a member of his court to prepare a printing press using it.

King Njoya shut down his schools in 1920 after his troubles with the French colonial administration, who tried to remove him in 1923.

He became a Muslim in 1918. It was also estimated that more than half of the Bamum converted to Islam in 1918.
He built a beautiful palace, and established what was in effect a museum. His palace contained 300 looms and six dye pits in different colors, some of the dyes for which Njoya himself discovered.

He was a patron of bead workers, brass casters, weavers, dyers, and other craftsmen. The arts flourished under his royal patronage.

King Njoya is until today known as one of Africa’s great leaders and heroes.

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