He made headlines in Cameroon in the 1980s when at the age of 35, he married six wives in addition to his already 36 wives. Mongo Faya, who was known as a singer, seer, traditional healer, herbal gynecologist, parapsychologist, and astrologer, married his new six wives at a civil wedding ceremony on July 11, 1987, in the port city of Douala in Cameroon.
At the time, he had about 28 children with his over 30 wives aged between 20 and 24 living under the same roof in a small village north of Yaounde. The Cameroonian musician had also returned from the U.S. where he recorded his latest album, “Stop Apartheid”.
The well-known polygamists in the country during this time were reportedly envious of Mongo Faya’s “feat”, with some accusing him of using black magic to charm the women. He was unbothered. The traditional healer and seer believed that polygamy was one of the continent’s ancestral values that ought not to die.
“Polygamy is not a battlefield but a business where we live in community with mutual respect and understanding” he said, according to reports. “I don’t do magic, my wives love me how I love them too; it is through this love that tranquility and peace come to me. Love alone can bring peace”.
Indeed, polygamy is a centuries-old practice in Africa that has yet to disappear from modern life. It has both cultural and religious origins, and it is generally accepted in about 26 out of 54 African countries, particularly Muslim majority countries. Critics of the practice say that it undermines women’s dignity and increases the risks of diseases and poverty. Scores of women have been compelled to live in polygamous marriages, a usual practice among men centuries ago who were in search of large families to cultivate the land. To date, countries such as Algeria, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and so on, generally accept polygamy.
In Cameroon, polygamy has been continuing among traditional rulers, with many marrying as many wives as they desire. Locals believe that men who have many wives and children have supernatural powers and they help boost the economy, DW reported. In recent years, the rising cost of taking care of families, the spread of Christianity and the country’s penal code that reserves jail sentences for adulterous spouses, have been challenging the practice, the report added.
At the time of his death in 2002, reports said that Mongo Faya had 80 wives, and some locals praised him for that. In May 1988, writer Martin Jumbam narrated in the Cameroon Tribune how Mongo Faya and his many wives once held up traffic in the city of Douala. Jumbam wrote that he was in a taxi on his way to work when Mongo Faya appeared on the street with his bushy hair and a piece of yellow cloth leading his squad of women in tow and disrupting traffic.
“I saw, filing out, like mating ants, from between two ramshackle houses, a dozen or so slender-looking, gazelle-like, spindle-legged women with wasp-like waists and generous bosoms, all clad in tight-fitting, black jogging attires that left very little else to the imagination.
“Before I could ask who those nymphets were, I heard our taxi driver switch off his car engine and was out of the car in a flash, clapping and shouting at the top of his voice, with the other idlers: “Mongo Faya! Mongo Faya! Roi des femmes! (King of women!); Empereur des nanas!! (Emperor of chicks!). From every corner, the excited crowd vociferously expressed its admiration for Cameroon’s much vaunted macho man and lady-killer, Mongo Faya.”
A year after this, 15 of his then 45 wives sued him, demanding an additional vehicle for their transport but the matter was solved. Some of Mongo Faya’s wives helped him take care of his 15 hectares of plantations in the village of Endom while others owned small shops and hairdressing salons opened for them by Mongo Faya in Douala.
He sometimes appeared on television with some of his wives describing himself as a medicine man who could cure men with erectile dysfunction. He got a lot of clients in his lifetime, reports said. As a singer, Mongo Faya sometimes performed on stage with his wives. He disliked being compared with Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, who also had many wives. “Fela is Fela” and “Mongo Faya is Mongo Faya”, Mongo Faya is reported to have said.
What’s more, he never wanted his children to know their mothers, arguing that each child belonged to all of his wives. Not much has been said about his wives and children since he passed away on July 6, 2002, at the central hospital in Yaounde following an illness.