In Cameroon, to win the esteem and confidence of a person, you can, among other signs of kindness, simply offer him a cola nut.Whether you are from the North, the South, the East or the West, whether you are Christian, Muslim or animist, rich or poor, young or old, the cola offered in collective tasting is an icebreaker.
“Sharing cola nuts is in itself, an act of communion. When you offer a cola nut to a neighbor, you immediately feel that you have created a connection and a rapprochement; even if you never got acquainted with him,” says Jean Bofia.
As a vendor of cola nuts at the Ndokoti market in the third district of Douala, Mr. Bofia notes that the fruit keeps all its virtues as reinforcing social relations, regardless of the variety of cola nuts species. People may have preferences and ask you if you have the Bafia cola of the Bassa cola, which is usually called ‘Goro,’ Jean says, noting that despite these differences in quality of the product, “genuine consumers” do not take these differences into account and chew all kinds of cola nuts.
In social and cultural events, cola has the right of citizenship, always used to improve moods relax the atmosphere and free speech.
If the cola nut is not distributed around during social events, such as funerals, wedding of christening ceremonies, it still holds its ranking, besides the eternal drink on the table of regular bars and restaurants in Cameroon. “When I am in a bar with people and I have some cola nuts, I break it and everyone takes a bite, whether they are my friends of not. No it does not happen like that. Everyone who is present and who wants to share it has the right to have some, period!.,” says Papa Dika, a notable from the chiefdom of Akwa Township.
Beyond a simple gesture of sharing between revelers, the cola nut is used in many ethnic groups in the country, especially among the Bassas, to facilitate steps towards a marriage. Thus, if you want to marry a girl or give her a dowry, the tradition asks you, in addition to giving palm wine, to offer cola nuts to your future in-laws, the patriarch Mbombog Babem says.
In addition, “it is only when the cola nut gifs is accepted by the in-laws that you can engage in discussions. The cola nut is a unifying element, and sharing a piece with the people attending the event means the offer of marriage is accepted.”
This fraternity around the Cola nut is felt even more in the countryside where, according to the sociologist, Paul Maniben, “local people, as a sign of welcome or goodbye, prefer to give you cola nuts, rather than offering you a rooster or a bunch of plantain bananas.
Offered in this way, the cola nut symbolizes the “brotherhood, friendship, hospitality, concord (…) joy and happiness” that you want to establish in the relationships with your neighbors.
For Leonard Batje, a priest of the Edea Diocese, in the Littoral region, “the cola nut is a unifying factor. Sharing it with a neighbor means you have a lot of affection for him.” According to the clergyman, the friendliness around the cola nut is so important that those who do not chew it on the spot have to accept it anyway during family ceremonies, just to contribute to the general good mood.
Going back in history, the Catholic priest recalled the Natives had offered cola nuts to welcome the French missionaries who were looking for a place to build the Saint Joseph of Bisseng Parish of the Edea Diocese.
Leonard Batje, who seems to be privy to the social virtues of the cola nut, declares that “it is perhaps the only food in the world that we do not often like to consume alone and that we even propose to people we do not know. Thus, it promotes the rapprochement between people, regardless of their origins or their social status.”