The story about Bayeh and Kere

Linguistic and Anthropological Aspects of  Mumuye
Lets begin with a typical little tale about two giant lizards.

They are called Bayeh and Kere. While Kere has a rough skin, Bayehs is very smooth. The Mumuye people hunt Bayeh because its skin makes a good drumhead.

Why Bayeh did not get his hair done in time
(literal translation Mumuye-English)

The story I am telling now is about Kere and Bayeh. The horns of the wrestling feast are blowing in the dancing place, honk honk honk. Well. Kere was calling, saying "Bayeh!" Bayeh said "What?" He said that he should come and he wants them to fix each other's heads. Well. Bayeh was sitting and painting the body of Kere. He painted and painted the body of Kere. Look at Kere, at his body! You cannot take your eyes off it, it is so nice. Well. The sun came. The sun said that it came here. Then Rabbit called saying "My friend!" His friend said, "What?" He said that the horns of the wrestling feast are blowing in the dancing place, and he said that he was wasting his time, and he said that he was still fixing his friend's hair. He said, "O ho ho, man! You are painting, man! Don't fix it like this! Before, did he fix yours?" He said that he fixed it. "Just sprinkle him like Bandon's body."
As far as Bayeh's body is concerned, it stayed ugly. Concerning Kere's body, Keres was done well. Bayeh painted him with much care. Because of this, Kere was very nice. Bayeh painted him with much care. Rabbit said "O.k.". But if you say you want to go on painting, then with what will people beat the drum? Do the people beat the drum with anything but Bayeh 's skin? That's why people kill Bayeh. People use it as drum skin. People go drumming with it.

The Story in the Mumuye language

Ru gmaa'gmaa' tan y ke're y bayeh. Kohma'n jeh vu balan da'n ne pon pon pon. Too.  A Ke're bayna t ne "Bayeh". Bayeh t "hn". Ne wu a re ne t ri ti zo yu. Too. Bayeh na wa'n ne a beh ke're bi, beh ke're bi , beh ke're bi. M z ke're be. Bi bibe be! Mo loh ji'n gn kpan. Too. N, la wu a ta, la wu t nihn be. A Daashoh bayna, t ne "beehsan". Beehsan ne "hn". Ne t ne bo kohma'n jeh vu balan da'n be, ne t ne wu wl gaa' wu w'n kaa gn, ne t ne wu ti beehsan do yu. T "o ho ho jeh! Mo t beeh jeh! M to to non ko kpan! Basi t mo kpa ya?" T ti wu to. Too. Lku ba-ka bando'n. Bi bayeh ko weh w'n ne bi kokoro. Bi ke're ko, ke're w'n ne be. Bayeh beh wu dooli. Bu-vu-bo ke're shi non-ni be. Bayeh beeh wu dooli. Basho t "N. Bo mo kyi mo t mo beh tokn be, a za'n d wa da'n bi ne wu-ya? Za'n d wa da'n ne bayeh ko kpa ya?" Ru bo za'n y' bayeh kati. Za'n pu ka'n kaa-non, za'n waa kati be.

The story about Bayeh and Kere reflects some of the features of Mumuye language and culture:


The Mumuye, men and women alike, put a lot of effort into their appearance, especially when an important feast is in sight. Every individual wants to look nicer than the other one. They spend days to doing each others hair. When one person is done, it is the other ones turn. Hopefully the hairstyles are finished by the beginning of the feast.
Sometimes not everyone can manage to get ready for the festivities however, so some appear with just a half-done head or no specially dressed hair at all.


  Mumuye bass drum

  with a drumhead of

  Bayeh skin






Most of the pictures in this web site were taken in the years 1967-1973. In those days not many people used to wear cloths.
At about this time the Emir of Jalingo started a clothing campaign.
Since then culture and customs have changed.

Therefore these photographs have to be regarded as
 Documents with historic Value


The Mumuye people do have a different notion of time than we have. Their reference to time depends on the position of the sun. So somebody may point in a special angle to the sky and say "la nihn" which means "the sun has come here", or like in the story "The sun said that it came here."

The Rabbit

The Rabbit (Daashoh or Baashoh) plays a special role in the culture of the Mumuye. He is the one that changed all things that seemed not to be good into the state that they are today. So he is consequently also responsible to make sure that Bayehs hair is not styled too much, so that people can still use its skin for their drums.

Baashoh plays a role in the religion of the Mumuye. He is found in the moon. In Nigeria the moon appears tilted 90 degrees from the way it appears in Europe, and a sitting rabbit is seen in it.

The tale about Bayeh and Kere is just one of hundreds of such stories. They are the bases for language study. Learn more about the Mumuye by surfing through the following links:

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