Dowayo people

Dowayo / Doyayo

Dowayo / Doyayo / Namji / Namchi / Namshi

The Doyayo or Dowayo are an ethnic group living today in and around Poli in the Department of Benue in northen Cameroon.

They are numbering 50,500 (, 2023)

Dowayo People

They are part of the Adamawa-Ubangi people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc.

This people group is only found in Cameroon.

Their language is part of the Adawama-Eastern family, which is part of the larger Niger-Congo group.

Most Dowayos are farmers who raise guinea corn, peanuts, cotton, and kapok,

The primary religion practiced by the Doyayo is animism, a religious worldview that natural physical entities--including animals, plants, and even inanimate objects--possess a spiritual essence.

Dowayo People

Dowayo Art

The Namji tribe (Dowayo) is famous for their wooden dolls carved with geometric features and adorned with multi-colored bead necklaces, cowrie shells, coins, metal strips, fiber and leather. The dolls held by young Namji girls to play and to ensure their fertility, are considered among the finest and the most beautiful dolls in Africa. They are carved from solid hardwood. The doll would have a name, be fed, be talked to and be carried strapped to the back everywhere the child would go. The most popular place to carry ones' doll is strapped to the back the way real infants are toted around. This was the young girls' first baby. This was her responsibility.  This doll helped prepare the young Namji woman for her role as mother in her future life. Though most of them represent females, they sometimes appear as couples.

Dowayo People

Dowayo People

Dowayo People

Dowayo People

Nigel Barley and the Dowayo

In the mid-1980’s, British anthropologist, Nigel Barley visited Cameroon to study the elaborate circumcision ceremony of the Dowayo tribe.

Nigel Barley explains that there are skull ceremonies to wrestle with. The skulls are of dead ancestors and relations and the ceremonies entail various animals sacrifices and very anarchic-sounding clowning from those specifically ascribed that role.

Barley charts a relationship between the fertility of the land, the millet cycle (on which the Dowayos are very dependent) and the ceremony of circumcision that lies right at the heart of their life.

The Dowayos – at least at the time of the book’s writing – perform an extreme form of male circumcision where the penis is essentially “peeled” along its length. Men who were circumcised together as boys remain in strong, almost filial and constantly joshing relationships with their circumcision group. Those who are uncircumcised are considered almost feminine and not men by the rest of the Dowayos.