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WANDALÁA sources Politik zwischen den Zeilen: Arabische Handschriften der Wandalá in Nordkamerun. By HERMANN FORKL, with the co-operation of REINHARD WEIPERT. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1995. Pp. 559. No price given (ISBN 3-87997-245-1).



The Wandalá community of northern Cameroon and adjoining portions of north-eastern Nigeria have a long tradition of state forms of government. In recent centuries, following conversion to Islam, they have composed an historiography in Arabic, an effort entailing the adaptation of alien characters to the names and titles of a language whose sound system differs considerably from the one for which the symbols were originally intended. Some individual examples of this literature have already been published, at least in translation, but with widely varying degrees of formality and precision. The volume reviewed here offers a critical edition and an accurate, persuasively annotated translation of all seventeen known Wandalá historical manuscripts in Arabic. Nine of the manuscripts are state chronicles that convey greater or lesser amounts of historical information arranged according to the remembered sequence of Wandalá monarchs. One composition is a dramatic patriotic epic, probably attributable to the days of the intrusive eastern warlord Rabih Fadl Allah at the dawn of the present century but couched in the form of a narrative of the defense of the Wandalá kingdom against an eighteenth-century invasion from Borno. Four documents are lists of local authorities at the south-eastern town of Mime. Two manuscripts list title officials of the central court together with some of their duties, while a third describes some of the tax obligations incumbent upon various groups of subjects.


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