Traditional titles and their awards are usually marked by special rites which are usually accompanied by traditional dances and fanfare. In Nso land, it’s one of the moments that show the valour and superintendence of the palace over its subjects. HRH, the paramount Fon of Nso, Sehm Mbinglo I, recently recognized and bestowed on Witty Minstrel and Chilli Wawaye the prestigious titles of “Ngwang Yov” and “Yeesum Yov” respectively. The interest of this article is to show how the award of such titles has evolved.
“Ngwang” is one of the titles in the Manjong cult. The title is usually given to a deserving male as either an honour and/or as a designation to an important post of responsibility; It is a reward or award that comes with assigned duties and responsibilities. As an honour, the Nso Fon, through Manjong leaders, recognizes any Nso son who has done something great for the land or contributed in a significant way to the growth of the fondom. For example, it was given to brave hunters and warriors who fiercely protected the interest of the land. Anyone who receives the title is given a red feather that is pinned on a black cap as a marker of the distinguished title.
When one is proclaimed a “Ngwang” in the Manjong cult, he is considered one of the main decision-makers. He serves as an overall adviser over the segments that constitute the cult. While doing this, he ensures the serenity and the discipline of the cult. Most importantly, he acts as a liaison between the Manjong cult and other cults and sanctuaries within the fondom.
“Yeesum”, on the other hand, is a title exclusively for women. Originally, a “Yeesum” was charged with the responsibility of mobilizing women to cultivate the Fon’s farms and subsequently harvest the produce and take it to the Palace. The title is an honour given to any deserving Nso woman (and recently to a non-Nso woman) who has made a name or a remarkable difference in any discipline especially if it has an impact on the growth or development of the Nso community.
A “Yeesum” titleholder plays a vital part when it comes to making influential decisions and ensuring its implementation amongst the womenfolk. “Yeesum” equally acts as a liaison between the palace and other traditional institutions and the women.
The award of traditional titles, just like many other aspects of palace events, has been alarmingly influenced by time as the scope and sphere of the roles attached to “Ngwang” and “Yeesum” titles have been stretched out of its traditional boundaries. We’ve witnessed a drift in the procedure of awarding palace titles to people. The primary roles attached to the titles have been greatly modified. The modification is not just for the sake of it but a means to adapt to the evolving times. The cases of Witty Minstrel and Chilli Wawaye are the most recent examples that can be used to show this evolution.
The “Yov” attached to these titles point to the bearers’ spheres of influence. “Yov”, in Lamnso’ (Nso language), could either mean ‘a song’ or ‘to sing.’ In this vein, their songs have demonstrated their reverence of the Nso heritage and most importantly, have instilled hope (amidst a mighty tussle of despondency) in the people.
The Manjong cult and the Fon’s farm, in this case, won’t serve as a setting where the actions and events that will bring about the required change shall take place. The title has to blend with the profession of the bearers and as such, the recording studio is the place of action and their voices (through the message in their songs) will be the magic wand that would disseminate the message to the public and serve as a bonding tool as well. As peace ambassadors, they have to assemble the Nso music community, protect and project the image of the land and clamor for the need for love and oneness and the uncompromising importance of peace.
To whom much is given, much is expected. The red feathers on Witty Minstrel and Chilli Wawaye’s heads are expected to produce a colorful plumage through their efforts to meet up with what the palace and the people expect from them. The recipients of these titles are revered and given traditional respect among Nso sons and daughters. Their achievements are what will boost the prestige and mettle that go with the titles— “Ngwang Yov” and “Yeesum Yov.”