Nzame Re-creates the World

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(Fang/Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon)

In the beginning, there was nothing but Nzame, the supreme being. Nzame is really three: Nzame, Mebere, and Nkwa.

Mebere made the first human out of clay, but in the form of a lizard. He put the lizard in the sea and left him there for eight days, after which he emerged as a man. It was the Nzame part of Nzame who created the universe and the earth and blew life into it. When he had done that, he called Mebere and Nkwa, the other parts of Nzame, to admire his work. They suggested that Nzame make a chief for the earth. Between them Nzame, Mebere, and Nkwa made a creature in their image. They named him Fam, Power. From Nzame the new creature gained strength; from Mebere he received leadership; and from Nkwa he had beauty. They instructed Fam to rule the world, then went back into the sky where they live. For a time, everything, even the first chiefs—the elephant, the leopard, and the monkey—obeyed Fam. But Fam grew arrogant, too proud of the qualities he had been given by Nzame. He began to mistreat the animals, even the first chiefs. He decided he did not need to worship Nzame, so Nzame brought down thunder and lightning, destroying everything. Only Fam was left, because he had been promised a deathless existence, and Nzame cannot take back his word. This is why, although Fam disappeared, we know he still exists and that he harms us when he can.

Looking down at the parched earth, Nzame, Mebere, and Nkwa applied a new layer of earth to it, and when a tree grew it dropped its seeds and made new trees. Leaves that dropped into water became fish, and leaves that fell on the earth became animals. Soon, the earth was reborn. Nzame then created a new Fam, but one who could die. The new man was the ancestor, Sekume, who made the first woman, Mbongwe, from a tree. The first ancestors were made with both Gnoul (body) and Nsissim (soul). Nsissim gives life to Gnoul and is its shadow. When Gnoul dies, Nsissim does not die; he is the little shiny spot in the middle of the eye. This spot is like the star in the heavens or the fire in the hearth. Sekume and Mbongwe prospered and produced many children. Their only worry was the original Fam, who sometimes tunneled up from where Nzambe had left him under the earth and did evil things to them.

Subjects: Religion.

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