Mofu is a designation for various ethnic groups and languages they speak in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria. The Mofu groups live in the Mandara Mountains of Cameroon's Far North Province.
Mofu are Kirdi people.
Some of these groups accept the name "Mofu", for example the Mofu-Duvangar, Mofu-Durum, Mofu-Wazang, Mofu-Meri, and the Mofu-Gudur. Others do not use the appellation "Mofu". They use just Zulgo, Gemjek, Mbuko, or Moloko. They use those names to refer to themselves and their languages.
Most of the groups with the Mofu prefix traditionally refer to themselves as "People of the Mountains" or their language as "Language of the Mountains".
The Mofu languages are separate languages of the Biu–Mandara branch of the Chadic language family.
The Mofu-Wazan were featured in the 2007 documentary Master of the Killer Ants, a Nova program episode.
No etymology of the name Mofu is known to us. The name ‘Mufu’ (Mofu) appears first on Moisel’s map (1912-1913). He places a massif ‘Mufu’ northeast of ‘Durum’ and northwest of ‘Duwungar’ (Duvangar). ‘Murei’ (Meri), ‘Gemschek’ (Gemjek), ‘Sulgo’ (Zulgo), and ‘Mineo’ are found northeast of ‘Mufu’, while ‘Dugur’, ‘Mikiri’ and ‘Tchere’ (Tsere) are situated east of ‘Duwungar’. ‘Boku’ (Mboku) is found east of ‘Gemschek’, and ‘Mukia’ (Mokyo-Molkwo) is situated east of ‘Boku’. All these names of sub-groups of the so-called Mofu-Diamare (Vincent) already appear on Moisel’s map, but the name ‘Mufu’ (Mofu) is only one among many.
We have to look at Strumpell (1922;23) to find that a concept of Mofu groups existed already at the time. Strumpell (ibid:60) speaks of the ‘Matakam’ and ‘Muffu (Muffo)’ and identifies them as an ethnic group situated between the Matakam and the Gisiga. However, he points out that the ‘Matakam’ might have been originally referred to as ‘Muffu’ as well. He explains this by saying that the name ‘Matakam’ was a Fulbe invention (see page of the Mafa). Strumpell (ibid) adds that the Muffu originally lived in the plain of Diamare, but that they moved to the eastern foothills and mountains when the Gisiga arrived. Strumpell’s interpretation implies that the name Mafa (Matakam) and ‘Muffu’ meant originally one and the same people. This is in accordance with Moisel’s map (ibid) which applies the name ‘Mufulu’ to the area of the Mafa (Matakam) of today. This would also imply that Mofu (Muffu) and Mafa (Mufulu) mean nothing else than montagnards or the ‘people of the mountains’, which is in accordance with Vincent’s view (1991:52ff) that the name ‘Mofu’ (Mofu-Diamare) and the name ‘Mofo’ (Mafa) apply to all montagnards north of the river Tsanaga.
Vincent (ibid) distinguishes between the Mofu-Diamare and the Mofu-Gudur. The Mofu-Gudur live on the foothills south of the river Tsanaga, although Moisel (ibid) puts a massif Gudur north of the river. Vincent informs us that the ‘true’ Mofu or Mofu proper (Durum, Duvangar and Wazang) see the Mofu south of the river Tsanaga (Mofu-Gudur) not as proper montagnards. Lembezat (1961:12f) informs us that the ancestor Ngueleo was brought up by the Gisiga of Maraoua. Ngueleo was given a bull to go towards the Northern Mandaras. When he arrived in Gudur the bull disappeared in the ground and only his horns remained visible. Gudur is also the name of a powerful chieftaincy which has links with certain clans among the Kapsiki, Mafa, the Wula and Sukur as well as the Dughwede and Guduf, who trace some of their ancestry back to Gudur (Muller-Kosack, 1989, 1994, 1997; Jouaux 1991, 1995; Seignobos 1991; Sterner 1998).
The Mofu-Diamare are mainly situated in the arrondissement Meri, consisting of the cantons: Meri, Doulek, Douvangar, Douroum and Wazang. The Mofu-Gudur are mainly found in the cantons Mokong and Mofou-Sud (arrondissement Mokolo).
Hallaire (1991:26) counts 28,874 Mofu-Diamare (Doulek, Meri, Douvangar, Douroum, Wazang) and 26,235 Mofu-Gudur (Mokong, Mofou-Sud). Boulet et al (1984:119) speak of 42,100 Mofu.
Barreteau (1984:168) classifies the dialects of mofu-nord (Douroum, Douvangar, Wazang) and the mofu-south (mofu de Mokong, mofu de Goudour and Zidim=mofu-gudur) under mafa-south.
Muller-Kosack (1999) differs from Vincent (ibid) and tends to include into the term Mofu-Diamare only the Durum, Duvangar, Wazang, Meri, Dugur, Mikiri, and Tsere. It seems that the Durum, Duvangar and Wazang form a unity which can be refer- red to as Mofu proper (Vincent). The term Mofu groups includes the Mofu-Gudur.
Most important literature on the Mofu proper is Vincent (publications since 1968). Marchesseau (1944, 1945) on the ethnography of the Durum, Vaillant (1947) on the agricultural system of the Wazang, and so does Boutrais (1984). Chaumbard de Lauwe (1937) on sacred pottery. Chauleur (1929) on Mofu ethnography. Seignobos (1991) and Jouaux (1991,1995) on the chieftancy of Gudur. Barreteau is the most important linguist, especially Mofu-South (publications since 1977). Other linguists are Phillips (1984) and Wiesemann (1987).