Mary Besong
Mary Besong is first generation American, with both her parents hailing from Cameroon, West Africa. She is a recent graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University with her bachelors in biological sciences. Mary is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and the national youth coordinator of MECA-USA Inc. She has always prided herself in her Cameroonian culture. At the age of 11, Mary was taught one of her tribe’s cultural dances, moninkim, by her grandmother. Moninkim is a dance which signifies a girl’s coming of age. She has performed the moninkim dance at numerous social events and gatherings. Apart from dancing moninkim, Mary likes to spend time with her family and read. In future, she plans on attending medical school and becoming an OB/GYN.

About Moninkim

Moninkim is a cultural dance carried out by women in the Manyu division of Cameroon. It is a sensual yet graceful dance with the main movements being swaying and shaking of the hips. The word moninkim derives from the words “mon” meaning child and “nkim” meaning cut or I cut referencing circumcision, simply translating to a girl who has reached puberty and has been circumcised. During this time, a girl was kept in confinement, where older moninkim taught the girl how to cook, home management, expectations of a good wife and social integration. As a future moninkim, the girl also learned how to sing moninkim songs and perform the moninkim dance. Towards the end of her process, the girl underwent circumcision. (Today, however, the act of circumcising is no longer carried out.) After which, the new moninkim was brought out to the public signifying successful entrance into womanhood and motherhood.

The attire of moninkim is made to reveal her body in conformity with her values. The skirt she wears is made of cloth fabric but used to made of leaves or animal skin. The skirt is worn at a short length to showcase the thighs. Her top similar to the skirt is made of cloth and can be various colors. Placed atop her waist are ajiigija, waist accessories embellished with small beads and bells. These accessories serve the purpose of increasing the moninkim’s waist and complimenting her shape. Placed on her upper arms and legs, are asak and mkpone made to enhance beauty. Aya abei is a red rope shaped in an x worn over the breasts. Completing her ensemble, is her hair and make-up. The hair of the moninkim is symbolic, showing off her crowning glory. The hair is pinned with feathers or porcupine spikes. The make-up of the moninkim helps acknowledge the young maiden. Make-up is not only applied to the face but the body as well to reveal and enhance dance movements. The make-up is applied using calabar chalk.

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