Sacred Ngondo water festival in Cameroon where people enter into the water for one hour and return unwet


The Ngondo is a yearly water-centric festival organized by the Sawa in Douala, Cameroon. The gathering of the Sawa people usually takes place within the first fortnight of December on the Wouri river banks in Douala and exhibits the culture of the Sawa, the country’s coastal dwellers.

“The Ngondo Festival is an approach to relating with the spirits of “water Gods” and has been celebrated as an annual religious/traditional festival for countless years now. Ngondo festival starts with a variety of rituals and feasts performed to celebrate and rejoice the unity of different African tribesmen who gather there for further celebrations of the event.”

The most fascinating thing about this festival is that one spiritual spectacle or display undertaking by Jengu cult, which makes the event different from all other events in festivals celebrated in Cameroon. Traditionally inducted Sawa Jengu cult members are assigned by Sawa chiefs as messengers to the Sawa gods within the kingdom of Miengu, said to be living in River Wouri. The initiated person dives and disappears into the large River.
He stays under the water for over an hour and emerges together with his body, the normal attire and basket as dry as if they need not gotten in-tuned with water. Children aren’t allowed to attend this ceremony as there’s a significant guided secret within the performance of the festival ritual. As a result of the highly secretive nature with which Jengu rituals have performed, the festival was banned by the Cameroonian government in 1981 and was restored in 1991.

The name “Sawa” has not always designated all people known by this name today. They once mentioned themselves as “muna mboa” (Duala), mwan mboka (Mongo), man bo, mwan mba — which generally means “native son”. Usually, each clan is identified by a selected name, pertaining to the foremost common ancestor.

But not all of the clans gave themselves a reputation. Sometimes they were named by surrounding peoples. within the case of Sawa, our fellow citizens referred to us simply as “the coastal people” — or Duala. in point of fact, this term identifies just one of the numerous clans, which has caused frustration among those that don’t belong to the Duala clan within the strict sense.

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Sawa women at the Ngondo ceremony

According to Cameroonian anthropologists, the Sawa are divided into two major groups: (1) Firstly, the clans of the traditional inhabitants of the region: Bakoko, Abo, Pongo, Bassa and also the area around Douala, Edea and Yabassi… (2) Secondly, families with Manela’a Bwele as a standard ancestor. they’re divided into several families, including those of Mount Kupe and people of the ocean

At the latter part of November annually, Douala vibrates to the rhythm of the Ngondo, the good cultural festival of the Sawa. for 2 weeks, these Cameroonian coastal peoples celebrate the cult of water on the banks of the Wouri. The place has links with Cameroon’s colonial history as this was where the Portuguese navigator Fernando Póo landed in 1472. Amazed by the abundance of prawns, he gave the name of Río dos Camarões (‘Prawn River’ in Portuguese) to the river that later gave its name to the country.

Some thirty coastal and south-western ethnic groups participate during this festival grouping the Sawa, Tondé, Jébalé, Ewodi, Bakoko, and Bassa peoples and the others. It basically has three main parts: the immersion of the sacred vase, the election of Miss Ngondo, and a pirogue race.
A beauty pageant is held during the festival — trip down memory lane

The immersion of the sacred vase starts with an assembly very early within the morning on the Judgment Day of the festival. Dignitaries in ceremonial dress come to the river amid their staffs and followed by a dense crowd of individuals. Initiates on a pirogue search for a secret passage for the immersion of the sacred vase.

An emissary goes into the Wouri with the vase to look for messages sent by the water divinities, the ‘Myengu’ (sirens). When the boatmen are immersing themselves into the water to the Jengu, the boatmen and also the traditional priests, likewise as other initiated elders, undertake a wild mass cries “yai assu yai” (Come assu come) meaning assu is another name for Jengu. Once they have been delivered to the surface, the people look unwet and therefore the calabash they brought are interpreted by the ancients who meet within the sacred hut.
Sawa initiate coming out of their ritual huts during Ngondo festival

Tradition has it that the ‘Myengu’ protect their people and help them to hold out their instructions that are sources of blessings: strength, wisdom, prosperity, fertility, good fishing, good harvests, fraternity and love of 1 another, peace in households and throughout the country. This immersion of the sacred vase is that the mystic aspect of the ceremony and therefore the occasion for these people to speak with their ancestors.

The spectacular and really popular final event of the Ngondo is the race between giant pirogues that may be crewed by up to 70 paddlers. it’s watched by thousands of supporters gathered on the banks of the
Wouri. It also encompasses a mystic connotation

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