Nyi (Prestige Sword)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Among the many kingdoms (fondom) of the Cameroon Grassfields, the central fon (chief) and a number of secret societies are responsible for the social rule of each kingdom. In close counsel with Kwifor, Ngwerong, Mfu and Takumbeng (the social organisations of village elders, nobles, princes and elites) the fon must maintain spiritual and social order and is responsible for peaceful collaboration between neighbouring villages.

As a sign of social status and rank within the community, men within kingdoms of the Grassfields, those close to the fon, are given an nyi sword. Nyi swords are displayed during important parades and ceremonies such as the annual nja harvest festival (during which sacrifices are made at the graves of past fons).

Distinguishing Features

  • Engraved iron blade
    • Fon swords engraved in geometric patterns
    • Vertical grooves etched onto blades for high ranking noblemen
  • Wooden sword hilt
    • Coloured glass beads or bronze overlays cover the hilt of fon swords
    • Plain wooden hilts or openwork bronze hilts used for swords of noblemen
  • Fon sword sheaths embroidered in glass beads and cowrie shells
    • Embroidered in various geometric patterns and motifs
    • Loops on either side of sheath to hold cotton sash
  • Indigo and white cotton sash attached to sheath
  • Teardrop-shaped piercing at tip of blade in some examples

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