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Alfred Bell and Etuman come to Germany (1891)

In 1887 the Duala teenagers Alfred Bell (Belle Ndumbe), Etuman Ekwalla, Etuman Mungu and Ekwe Monsy were among the first Cameroonians to arrive in Germany in order to undertake an apprenticeship. The presence of Bell drew considerable attention from the German media. He was the nephew (and not the son as falsely reported below) of the well-known King Bell (Ndumbe Lobe Bell), one of the signees of the 1884 Treaty of Protection with the Germans; the treaty which signalled the beginning of German rule in Cameroon. It was also King Bell and a further Duala notable David Meetom (Mwange Ngondo) who requested permission from the German authorities in Cameroon for their children to receive education and training in Germany. Meetom’s own son, Tube Meetom, would later be educated in Aalen alongside King Bell’s grandson Rudolf Douala Manga Bell. For members of the West African elite ensuring that their children were educated in Europe was seen as a means of heightening their own prestige and influence. 

Although Alfred Bell returned to Cameroon in 1890, as this newspaper article suggests German media continued to be interested in the comings and goings of prominent colonial subjects, especially when they could be connected with the sorts of adventurous expeditions into the “wilderness” that captivated readers.

Robbie Aitken and Jeff Bowersox


Der Sohn von King Bell von Kamerun war beamtlich mit seinem Jugendfreunde Etuman herübergesandt, um sich in Hamburg und später in Bremerhaven als Zimmermann und Schlosser auszubilden. Nach Kamerun zurückgekehrt, dachten sie, nach in Hamburg eingegangenen Mitteilungen, gar nicht daran, das Erlernte als Handwerker zu verwerthen. Alfred Bell ging als Dolmetscher mit einem Afrikareisenden in die Wilderniß, und sein Freund Etuman ebenfalls als Dolmetscher mit Dr. Zintgraff auf die Expedition, bei welcher Gelegenheit er, nach den Angaben eines nach Hamburg zurückgekehrten Bureaubeamten, Eduard Mahler, als einer der Ersten erschlagen wurde.

Source: Hamburger Fremden-Blatt (16 June 1891)

Alfred Bell and Etuman come to Germany (1891) by Robbie Aitken and Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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