Bamum Culture to the World

A look at how the Bamum script and culture have made impressions across the globe over time

Today, Bamum language and culture has the potential to become well known around the world. Those who study African languages may already be familiar with Bamum as one of the African languages that has its own script, created entirely by an African community without outside influence. Bamum art, masks and carvings also have a place in the international African art market.

However, one aspect of the Bamum culture at this day and time has a potential to reach more people than its language and art combined. The Bamum script, developed under the leadership of Sultan Njoya in 1895, is garnering more interest from more people outside of the kingdom. This Bamum alphabet (also known as “A-ka-u-ku”) was finalized in 1910 into a group of 80 letters or characters.

This script represents very few writing systems in Africa that were created locally without outside influence. While there are many countries that have adopted English, French and Arabic as official writing systems, there are very few African writing systems that are used to communicate, write and read in modern times.

The Bamum script is unique in the sense that it has already been encoded digitally, making it a candidate for an African writing system that can be used to communicate using digital devices such as computers and smartphones.

“The Bamum script has the potential to be one of the first sub-Saharan writing systems to be adopted on western platforms,” explained Tramel Woodard, founder of the Bamum Project and Learn Bamum language platforms. “There may be a day not far in the future where citizens of the Bamum kingdom may be able to create magazines, publish books and post to social media in the Bamum script just as easily as the world communicates in English.”

“Communication is existence,” explained Woodard. “If you are able to readily communicate across the world in your own language, you exist and can live in a way that is much different than those who cannot. You can use technology to move your entire culture and legacy into the future. These are sure to be exciting times for the Bamum writing script and therefore the entire Bamum culture itself.”

Tramel Woodard is a hobby linguist from Richmond, California who has taken an extreme interest in the Bamum Script and is working diligently to help the Bamum script make its way to the Internet as a legitimate communication tool. “I am working closely with Professor Laziz Nchare, a professor and teacher of the Bamum language in the United States. We hope to present real progress in terms of communication with Bamum very soon.”

The Bamum script has also made its way to the big screen. Ryan Coogler, also from Richmond, California, is an American director and writer and directory of Marvel’s 2018 film, Black Panther. The production staff used a combination of Tifinagh, Ancient South Arabian and Bamum among others to create the Wakandan script for the movie.

“Black Panther depicted a fictional African writing system used by a fictional African kingdom. As movie goers, we were pretty impressed with that,” stated Tramel Woodard. “The thing is, an actual African writing system named Bamum created by a real Kingdom exists and many of us out there plan to ensure that everyone is just as impressed.”

Bamum Projects

The Bible Project

Our premiere project, The Bible Project, digs deep into the grammar and vocabulary used for the Christian Bible and the translation produced. (read more)

The Learn Bamum Site

In conjunction with the Bible Project, a website is being prepared to teach eager students the basics of Bamum language in an easy to learn format. (read more)

Bamum Mobile Project

After completion of the Bible Project and website, work on cross-platform smartphone applications will be the major focus of the Bamum Project. (read more)