The sacred forest is a concrete place with a rich symbolic meaning. For the Laimbwe ethnic group of the North West Region of Cameroon, it is the centre of the social life, around which the people organize their matrilineal system. Henry Kam Kah describes the origin, development and the changes in matriliny as a gender construction from an insider point of view. Using written material and interviews with 150 persons, he shows how the system overcame all the various challenges since the 18th century, especially the rejection of matriliny by the colonial powers and Christian missionaries. With this study, Henry Kam Kah calls into question different prejudices of a Eurocentric gender research which believes in the dominance of patriarchal structures and the decline of other gender systems under the impact of global influence and pressure.
Henry Kam Kah is Senior Lecturer at the Department of History of the University of Buea (Cameroon).