Traditions and customs of Cameroon

What customs and traditions are there in Cameroon?

A brief review of the traditions and customs that exist in this country, Cameroon.


Food in daily life

Sharing cooked food is one of the main ways to cement social relationships and express the high value placed on human company. Sharing food and drink demonstrates hospitality and trust.

Social support networks among relatives and friends, particularly among peasants and urban relatives, are symbolically held together by gifts of cooked and uncooked food. Sacks of beans, corn or peanuts “from home” can be seen on the roofs of taxis traveling between the countryside and urban centers.

Meals consist of a cooked cereal or root staple accompanied by a sauce or stew. In southern areas, the main staples are tubers, such as cassava and cocoyam, and plantains; in the humid savannah and grasslands, maize and bananas; and in the arid north, sorghum and millet. Rice and pasta have become popular.

Staples can be boiled, mashed or fried; they are most commonly made into thick porridge in the form of oblong balls. The sauces are usually based on palm oil and ground peanuts. Vegetables like greens, okra, and pumpkins are common.

Hot peppers, onions, ginger, and tomatoes are popular condiments. Dried or fresh fish or meat can be included in the sauce. Raw fruits like bananas, mangoes, papayas, oranges, and avocados are popular snacks and desserts; they are not considered part of the meals.

In many regions, men and guests eat before women and children. Handwashing is part of meal etiquette.

Whether from a separate plate or a common pot, a small ball of oatmeal is formed with three fingers of the right hand and then dipped into the sauce. Westernization has led families to eat together around a common table, using separate cutlery and silverware.

Food taboos vary by ethnic group. La Bassa of the Litoral province serves a gourmet dish of viper fillets in black sauce, but only the oldest males among the Ewondo (Beti) of the Center province can eat vipers. The totems of specific clans, healers, or royal dynasties are taboos for certain members of some ethnic groups.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At the visit of a guest of honor, a wedding, or a funeral, guests are served a chicken, goat, sheep, or ox. Special drinks such as palm wine and millet beer are served on these occasions, as well as bottled carbonated drinks, beer and wine.

Among the Bamiléké, as part of the coronation festivities, the newly installed paramount chief ceremoniously serves each subject a handful of beans mixed with palm oil to symbolize the chief’s ability to ensure food and fertility in his kingdom.


Among many ethnic groups, first marriages were historically arranged with varying degrees of veto power on the part of prospective bridegrooms, but individual choice emphasizing companionship is becoming more common. Most southern groups prefer exogamous marriage, while the Pël tend to be endogamous.

Polygamy is a goal within many groups, but it is not always financially attainable. Some women prefer small-scale polygamy for the companionship and mutual help that a co-wife can provide.


Greetings, the use of proper names, and the use of names of praise are important parts of daily etiquette in many regions of Cameroon. At meetings, each person should be greeted by name or with a handshake. Serving and receiving food is an important symbol of hospitality and trust throughout the country.

Throughout Cameroon, the elderly are respected. The protocol for speaking and sitting during an audience with a chief is highly developed in regions with hierarchically organized cultures (Fulani, Bamiléké, Banoun, and Grassfields).


Religious beliefs

Cameroonians have a variety of religious beliefs, with many people combining the beliefs and practices of world religions with those of their own cultural groups.

About 53 percent of the population are members of Christian denominations, about 25 percent practice primarily “traditional” religions, and about 22 percent are Muslim.

Most Christians live in the southern areas and most Muslims in the north. Christian missions constitute an informal second layer of colonialism.

Traditional religions are systems of practices and beliefs that adapt to changing social conditions. Most involve ancestor worship and the belief that people, animals, and natural objects are invested with spiritual power.

Religious practitioners

In addition to Christian and Muslim clerics, religious practitioners include ritual specialists from cultural groups. These specialists may be political leaders, spiritual mediums, or healers.

Your spiritual power can be inherited, learned, or acquired through your own affliction and healing. Generally, they combine their religious activities with other forms of livelihood.

Rituals and Holy Places

For Muslims, a pilgrimage to Mecca is a source of honor. Among animists, sacred places often include sacred trees or groves, unusual rock formations, and the burial places of ancestors. These places are often places of propitiation offerings to the ancestors or spirits.

Offerings include special foods, palm oil, palm wine libations, and chickens. Among the monarchies of the Grassfields, holy places include ancient palace sites where rituals promoting fertility and good fortune for the chiefdom are performed.

Death and afterlife

Various cultures, including the Bamiléké in the west and the Maka in the east, practice divination and/or perform public autopsies to determine the cause of death.

These towns are particularly concerned about death caused by witchcraft. In many cultures, death is announced through the public wailing of women.

The people of Grassfields bury their dead quickly, but observe a week of public mourning called a cry-die. Close relatives shave their heads. About a year later, lavish death celebrations are held in honor of the deceased, who has become an ancestor.

Death provides the occasion for the most important ceremonies of the forest foraging groups (Baka, Kola and Medzan). The forest spirit is believed to participate in death ceremonies by dancing under a raffia mask.

The honor and veneration of the ancestors are common to almost all groups. Ancestors may be remembered in oral literature (the Fulani), buried in elaborate tombs in the family yard (Ewondo Catholic), or reburied and given offerings of prayer, food, and shelter (the Bamiléké).

The Fulani, like other Muslims, believe in an afterlife of material rewards for those who obey Allah’s laws.

Secular celebrations

Secular celebrations such as New Years (January 1), Youth Day (February 11), Labor Day (May 1), and National Day (May 20) include public parades in which officials participate. public, party loyalists dressed in commemorative badges and school children, as well as dance groups.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

Most artists are self-financing, although in 1996 and 1997 7% of the national budget was dedicated to recreational and cultural activities.


The Fulani are known for their oral literature, including poetry, history, tales, legends, proverbs, magic formulas, and riddles.

Since colonial times, written literature has had a strong history in southern areas. Authors from Ewondo and Douala have contributed classics to modern African literature.

Graphic arts

Many groups produce ceramics, textiles, and sculptures that are used as everyday household objects. Grassfielders (including the Bamiléké and Bamoun) are famous for their blue and white royal cloths, elaborate beaded gourds, and sculptures including royal reliquaries.

The Bamoun are known for their bronze lost-wax sculptures. The graphic arts of pastoral groups such as Fulani and Hausa are largely related to cattle herding.

Performing arts

Music and dance styles are essential for the celebration of funerals, weddings and the succession to high office.

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