The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 349 pages of information about The Mafulu.

Next in rank to the sub-chiefs come a number of ake baibe, which means “great men.”  These are the leading people—­the aristocracy—­of the clan.  There are no distinctive social grades of rank among them.  Their number is often very large in proportion to the total number of male inhabitants of a village; indeed sometimes almost every member of a village will claim to belong to this class.  These people are in no sense office-bearers, and have no special duties to perform, though on a ceremonial occasion they are entitled to have their importance borne in mind.  Each of them also is entitled to have an emone (here again not a true emone) in his village, but in fact their numbers often make this practically impossible, and you rarely see more than two or three emone in one village.

The above are all the chiefs and notables of the clan.  There is no such thing as a war chief.

Aristocracy in its various forms is not a condition to which a man attains on getting older—­it is attained by inheritance.

The office of the chief is hereditary in the male line by strict rules of descent and primogeniture.  On the death of a chief his office descends to his eldest son, or if that son has died leaving children, it descends to the eldest son of that son, and so on for subsequent generations.  Failing the eldest son or male issue in the male line of the eldest son, the office devolves upon the late chiefs second son or his male issue in the male line.  And so on for other sons and their issue.  Failing such male issue the office passes to a collateral relation of the late chief on his father’s side (e.g., the late chief’s next eldest brother or that brother’s son, or the late chief’s second brother or that brother’s son), the ascertainment of the devolution being based upon a general principle of nearest male relationship in the male line and primogeniture. [58]

The chief holds his office for life, but he may in his lifetime resign it in favour of the person entitled to succeed him, and this in fact often occurs.  He cannot, however, on the appointment of his successor still continue in office himself, so as to create a joint chieftainship, as is done in Mekeo.  He, as chief, is subject to no special taboo, and there is no qualification for office, other, of course, than hereditary right; but no chief can perform the functions of his office, or build for himself an emone, until he has married.  There is no ceremony on the chiefs accession to office on the death of his predecessor; but there is a ceremony (to be described hereafter) on a chief’s abdication in favour of his successor.  Cases have, I was told, occurred in which a man has in one way or another forced himself into the position of chief, though not qualified by descent, and has thus become a chief, from whom subsequent chieftainship descent has been traced, but I could learn nothing of the circumstances under which this had occurred.  Also it has happened that, when a chief has been weak, and has not asserted his position, a sub-chief has more or less usurped his power and influence, without actually upsetting his chieftainship or supplanting him in his performance of ceremonial duties.

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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