Masa people

Masa

Masa / Banana / Massa / Yagoua / Masana

Masa people, also called Masana, Banana, or Yagoua are a Chadic ethnic group in Cameroon and Chad.

The Massa are also sometimes referred to as the Banana people which means “friendly”.

Globally, this group totals 510,000 in 2 countries. The Masa of Cameroon are numbering 291,000. They are part of the Chadic people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc. Their primary language is Masana. The primary religion practiced by the Masa is ethnic religion. Ethnic religion is deeply rooted in a people's ethnic identity and conversion essentially equates to cultural assimilation.

The Massa migrated to Magba still maintaining their fishing lifestyle. Their home and village is located in Yagoua which is in the extreme North of Cameroon.

The Massa are said to have originated from Yemen, then migrated to Egypt (the Nile) then Sudan. During those years, they were escaping converting to Islam. From Darfur, Sudan, many of them migrated to different parts of the continent. They fish, raise cattle and grow their own food. Because of that they are always found living close to water.

The original Massa migrated to lake Chad in the early 800’s. While living near the Chad border they were targeted by slave traders who came from Tripoli during the Middle Eastern slave trade. Some of the Massa to escape crossed the river to what is now Cameroon for better protection from the slave traders. That is the primary reason why today the Massa can be found in both Chad and Cameroon.

During those years, those who were living near the Chad river sent word to their people still in Darfur to warn them against traveling to the area. That now takes us to the beginning of the Tikar story of Cameroon. The Tikar were part of the second wave of migrants who left Darfur and ended up in the land called Cameroon. 

The Massa lived in this land for a long time. During the transatlantic Slave trade, they were once again vulnerable to capture from slave traders who came from Nigeria.

The Massa never participated in the slave trade. They resisted capture, but never sold their fellow Massa into any form of slavery.

The Massa are big and tall. Their diet consists of lots of fish and lots of milk from cows. In the Massa culture if you are not big and tall then you are not considered a “real” Massa. The bigger you are, the stronger you are, the more desirable you are as a man. The Massa often hold contests to determine the strongest person of the land. That person is looked upon to solve disputes and other issues in the village. They essentially become the warrior of the village.

 

Religion

The Massa are mostly Animis although there are a few who practice Christianity and Islam.

 

Formalised fighting over livestock or honour

In many cases there have been pitched battles between Massa from Cameroon and Massa from Chad. These clashes result in many wounded. The battles are often caused by the theft of cows, because livestock are extremely important in social relations and especially in the "marriage exchanges" of the society. An act of adultery can also be a catalyst for Masa groups to go to war. Men who participate in the battles have helmets and clubs. They use sticks and stones as weapons and fight in lines while they are encouraged by women.

In the battle between two groups of Massa, several rules must be met: collect the wounded from combat; do not hit a man on the ground nor one who is wounded. The fighting must end at dusk. Injured people usually are cured by traditional healers, who cure through several techniques which they exercise with local resources. Women who participate in this kind of fight acquire prestige in Massa society.

 

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