Ebenezer: Prof David Zeitlyn…

30 years in Cameroon – the adventures of an anthropologist…
An illustrated talk by Professor David Zeitlyn

Friday 13 March 2015

Ebenezer Presents is delighted to welcome Professor David Zeitlyn – popularly known as Z – to talk to us about his extraordinary, lifelong study of the lives and beliefs of the people of Somié, a village in North West Cameroon.

It is a place so remote that Google has only the vaguest idea where it is!

But for 30 years Z has lived in the changing world of the Mambila people of Somié. He has been anointed as a spider diviner and is a master of Mambila medicine. He has also studied the way in which the outside world has impinged on Mambila life, and how the village has adapted, resisted, continued…

The basis of the economy is still peasant farming. The hereditary chief still governs the village. Everyone belongs to church or mosque but Mambila ritual pervades all aspects of everyday life…

Sacrificial oath-taking remains the most common way to settle disputes – often following spider divination.

Central to life are the annual Sua masquerades of fertility. And the biannual Nggwun, a sort of trooping of the colours for the chief, is a focal point. In this ceremony, Z has been given a special role among the ritual chiefs in charge of the sacred medicines which sustain the chief.

But tarmac roads come closer – the nearest is a mere 150 kms away! – and TV, mobile phones and curriculum schooling have arrived…

Professor David Zeitlyn of Wolfson College Oxford is a social anthropologist who has been doing research in Cameroon since 1985.

Originally working on traditional religions, he has subsequently studied the sociolinguistics of family conversation, and patterns of language loss in the Mambila area.

He has been active in efforts to archive and research the wonderful work of Cameroonian studio photographers who have preserved a great record of changing life in Cameroon. He is an initiate in Sua Due, the male masquerade and is also a qualified spider diviner.

At Oxford, Z teaches postgraduate students and indulges himself by continuing fieldwork.

More information and a simulation of spider divination are online HERE at era.anthropology.org.uk/divination. Other Mambila material is HERE at mambila.info

The Ebenezers are particularly pleased to welcome Prof Z back to the Somerset Levels, he is an old friend, and has a particular connection to The Seed Factory: his parents-in-law, Monty & Alison Rayne, much loved and missed by all, owned and ran the factory.

Friday 13 March 2015
Doors open at 7.00 for a 7.30pm start
£12.50 (on the door) for Z’s fascinatingly implausible yet queasily realistic excursions into unknown zones, includes a glass of wine and supper…

To book or get onto the e-mail list either E-mail or telephone 07879 206543 – you may also use the Contact Form below:


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If you have not booked, please ring 07879 206543 before you leave to join us.
If you have booked, PLEASE let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend. Other people might have your seats and catering plans are affected.

Dear Friends & Guests,
To keep the gentlefolk of Aller happy we need all Ebenezees to park carefully. There will be highly qualified parking attendants to help but please note:
There is disabled access around the back of the building, so all those who find the stairs tricky should drive in to the yard and go towards the far end.
There is space for 20 or so cars in the Seed Factory car park. But if you have a very large vehicle it would be helpful if you could park outside.
If you park on the road, please do not park on the same side as the Seed Factory. 
There are spaces down the lane past the pub, particularly down Church Path.
There is also parking behind the Village Hall, just opposite the Seed Factory. We are welcome to use the space as long as there are no events at the Hall at the same time. Any doubts please check with our Parking squad.
Many thanks ~ Ebenezer Presents

Friday 27 March: Boko Haram ~ John Hare
Friday 10 April: Spring Planting ~ Charles Dowding
Friday 17 April: Ian Constantinides Memorial Debate
with George Ferguson CBE PPRIBA RWA Mayor of Bristol in the chair and a panel of architectural experts
Friday 24 April: Saladin ~ John Man
Friday 8 May: Syria ~ Brigid Keenan
Friday 5 June: Strawberry Hill ~ Marion Harney
Friday 26 June: Deeper than Indigo ~ Jenny Balfour-Paul

PLEASE do NOT book before you receive the specific flyer by e-mail newsletter… Thank you!