29 May 2006
Foteng is a Deity located in a pool at the bottom of a forested cliff at Ashong in Batibo Subdivision. In the sixties and seventies, hundreds of people flocked there every year to engage in cleansing and curative practices. It was said that people that possessed witchcraft never survived a trip to Foteng. They reportedly died by drowning in the upper pool (there are two pools) after being ‘clobbered’ by Foteng. It was said that if a ‘clean person’ fell into the pool, he or she was usually pushed out unharmed by Foteng. The story goes that such ‘clean people’ never even showed signs of wetness after being submerged in water. I was told, for example that a woman with a child strapped to her back fell into the pool and drowned while the innocent child came out alive.
There are indeed colourful stories about Foteng that are recounted all over Moghamo area.
The trip to discover Foteng is one of the most difficult I have ever undertaken in my whole life. I arrived Ashong in the morning of May 27th 2006 in the company of my friend Mbah Augustine. We sought the assistance of local guides to lead us to the place. We were given two young people, Check Macmilan 13 and Cheh Eric 15. We started descending the rugged cliff at 8.13 a.m and the weather was bright and sunny with occasional patches of clouds on some of the hills. The footpath was usually stony and slippery. I first started the trip empty handed. I next had to look for a walking stick. I soon discovered that one stick was not enough so I had to go for a second one. I fell six times on the way down before arriving at the final destination. The first leg of the journey is through light forest before you enter the Savannah portion. After the grassy vegetation, you next enter the real equatorial rain forest. One would have expected to encounter a diversity of wildlife in this thick forest but unfortunately that was not the case. Excessive hunting and the wire traps we met along the way certainly accounted for the paucity of fauna in this difficult-to-access forest.
We finally arrived Foteng at 9.56 am after a grueling and exhaustive 1hr 43 minutes trek.
There were two deep pools on the rocky bed of the valley. The first pool (the Foteng proper) contained stagnant water and the flowing stream did not pass through it. On the contrary if the pool overflowed, it released water into the fast flowing stream. The second pool was on the path of the stream. The stream entered it, formed a whirlpool before continuing its journey. The whole surrounding of Foteng is completely rock.
After staying for thirty minutes, we embarked on the difficult journey back. We started the climb at 10.30am. I must admit that this is not an adventure for pot-bellied city dwellers like me to attempt. The climb back was more strenuous than I could ever imagine. I had to use my four limbs on many occasions to scale through areas with threatening gradient. At one moment, all the muscles on both of my legs rebelled. Painful cramps sent me screaming to the ground. As we progressed, my difficulties only mounted to the extent that I had to rest after about three minutes climb. We finally arrived Ashong village at 2.07 pm completely tired and dirty after 3hrs 37minutes of treacherous climb.
I requested to interview the custodian of Foteng. The person to whom I was introduced declined to grant me any interview on grounds that he was only sitting in for his brother who was in the South West province.
We later paid a courtesy call on the Fon of Ashong Mbafor M Christopher III at his palace. The youngish looking Fon was very receptive. We talked and joked over glasses of fitchuk and kola nuts. He promised to secure the cooperation of the custodian of Foteng whenever I next come. He readily understood the importance of documenting information for posterity.
Ashong is a nice place to visit. If you are lucky to be there on a bright clear day, you will have the opportunity to visually explore your surroundings from the vantage hilltop position.
View another image of 'Foteng' at this link
View Video of Foteng at this link
Njei Moses Timah