"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

1.11.2010

Africa's kings

Africa is a Country has a post on a series of really cool photographs of African monarchs.

This reminds me of the time I got sent to visit the Lamido of N'gaoundere, Cameroon as a humble intern. A lamido is a kind of regional king or prince; I know they exist in Nigeria as well (anywhere else readers know of?). They're typically found in predominantly Fulani areas. N'gaoundere is a sleepy, small city in northern Cameroon; it's one of the last big towns between the mountains that divide northern and southern Cameroon and N'djamena.

Along with a colleague, we were official visitors and the N'gaoundere press (by which I mean, a couple of reporters for the national radio station and a teenager with a camera) followed us as we removed our shoes and went into the lamido's inner sanctum in his palace complex.

The throne room was of a decent size with a thatched roof in the arched dome shape that's typical of traditional architecture in that part of Cameroon. (The lamido's thirty or so wives and children were housed behind a wall inside the complex. Their homes involved modern takes on the traditional style of roof, with high, four-sided, pitched aluminum sheeting roofs that came to a point.) We were ushered in and told to sit in two low armchairs, at which point I noticed: the lamdio's throne was a bed.

I definitely didn't deserve an "intern of the year" award for not laughing through that interview, because there are Official Photographs the teenager took that show that I had a very hard time keeping a straight face. The lamido was perfectly gracious and we chatted about this, that, and the other in a very pleasant visit. Suffice it to say I've never experienced anything quite as unique since.

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