Matrilineality in Kom - a favorite parlor/chong house game in Kom?

On On Wed, 27 Dec 2000, I (Wanaku) posted questions on the subject on the AFOaKOM Yahoogroups forum. I got feedback from one of the most experienced scholars of Kom Anthropology – Nawain Eugenia Shanklin. I had touched on a subject she knew so well – Matrilineality. This was first posted on website and was viewed over 30,000 times.

Here's Nawain Shanklin’s reply:

Notes on Matrilineality in KOM
by Eugenia Shanklin
Dec 27, 2000

Hello all,
And a very happy new year to everyone.
I can't resist replying to the question about matrilineality, about which many Kom people are not well taught or informed by their teachers (who have often been missionaries and somewhat biased against a system that seems so foreign).

Matrilineality indeed means tracing descent through the maternal line; it also usually involves inheritance in that line, as it does in Kom, with nephew succeeding uncle. (The variant that the eldest nephew succeeds the uncle is not invariable, and any Kom person is already sufficiently familiar with exceptions to the rule.)

Posted on Tue Jun 17, 2008 9:11 am
From: Nkfum Nico
On AFOaKOM@Yahoogroups
Re:  [AFOaKOM] Re: Kom Names & their Meanings

We should be careful with Kom Names and meanings.
I will want Komrades to understand first the origin of their families (Asiah-Ndohsiy) we in KOM come from many different family backgrounds and all of us have sentimental attachments to our families especially maternal,
All KOM families today derived their origin from some where, these few examples can help, Ndo-oh-Mbiybah from Baba in Ndop, the Ndo-oh-Nambang from Akung in Menchum, the Ndo-oh-Titichia from Nkar Bui, the Ndo-oh-Kijem  was subdued by the Ikui on present Kom land, the Ndo-oh –Abena, the Ndo-oh –Akang , the Ndo-oh-Mejang these are just few examples.

 Inheritance & Widows in Kom - Kwifoyn enactments

For the second time in recent memory, Laikom has listened to the people and acted in the interest of the people. The first time was about cry-dies and funeral celebrations which involved a lot of wasteful expenditures and left the living dying more of hunger.

This time around, it has been about widows and orphans. Kwifon and the Fon have listened to the cry of the widows and orphans and on the 20th March enacted some changes in the matrilineal inheritance tradition of Kom which for the first time gives a voice to the widows. This is truly good news for all of us, ‘That every Yindo before the disposal of any property or parcels of land of the deceased must have the consent of the widow and the orphans’.

This good news came like a boomerang or a jilt on those who have argued that tradition is untouchable, that it is sacrosanct or holier than even the Ten Commandments. While they can break any of the Ten Commandments without qualms of conscience, they have held that no one can break tradition without dire consequences. The consequences have always been thought to catch the victim rather than the victimizer. In reality it has been the victimizers who suffer from transgressing tradition because they transgress it abusively. This was treated in the book, ‘Inheritance and Christianity in Kom’. Many people are held in bondage here because with impunity, they transgress the rights of the widows and orphans in the name of tradition.

My Dear Woin Kom,


I can appreciate why we all consider that it is the Kom succession that is in court. First, it comes from the ego of the people involved and also from the “camps” they both represent and/or have been seeing in each other from. I fear that on those grounds alone this may not be a real sample case of what is in court but most of the things complained of will lead many a Kom child to court with his “new father” (father’s successor) It is proper at this stage to take a look at the Kom succession as it should be, the limitations facing the present process today and whether, we would, on our own or in ==== shoes make any positive contribution towards its development or whether there exist any alternative or way forward.


Although Kom succession is popularly described to be matrilineal, many people have convincingly argued that it places too much attention on the woman (wife or wives) who are said to hold their families (family clans) sacred and over and above that of the husband in their marriages. From the present evolution of things today, I fear that this argument is escapist and is being used by our “new fathers” to cover their own shortcomings in their expectant responsibility roles. In every real succession ritual that I know, I have found that it is always the children that bring their “new father” (successor) out and lead him in the “Yindo/successor” dance while they present him to the public to whom he presents a sacrificial goat to be killed for the “ancestors” approval.