National Geographic : 1974 Jul
AFO-A-KOM A Sacred Symbol Comes Home By WILLIAM S. ELLIS Photographs by JAMES P. BLAIR BOTH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STAFF IT WASN'T ENOUGH to have heard the message of the drums carried on the gritty winds of November. They had to see to believe. And seeing, the people of Kom rejoiced, until the green and lovely grasslands of their kingdom seemed to tremble under the stomp of tribal dance. They sang, and feasted, and drank enough palm wine to call down the curse of tomorrow's regret. The festivities continued for four or five days-brief enough, considering that they were celebrating the end of seven years of grief. For it was in 1966 that the tribe's most revered statue, the Afo-A-Kom (literally "the Kom thing"), disappeared from the royal compound. Now it was back, and Nsom Ngwe, the Fon (or King) of Kom, decreed that there be gaiety in his domain. A month or so earlier, when he first learned that the statue would be returned, he said that until the Afo-A -Kom was before him-until he could look Rescued soul of the Kom people of Cameroon, the bead-covered Afo-A -Kom represents the African tribe's political, spiritual, and religious heritage. Stolen in 1966, it surfaced seven years later in a New York City art gallery, and negotiations were begun for its return. In Yaounde, capital of the United Republic of Cameroon, the Kom ruler feels the recovered statue to make sure it is not a copy.