In 2006, the Bamum Scripts and Archives Project embarked on a project to create the first usable Bamum computer font.  In order to do this, we examined hundreds of important documents transcribed in the current and most widely employed variant of the Bamum script: A-ka-u-ku (after its first four characters).  The goal of the project team was to identify the most prominent forms of the various Bamum characters, as there have been many different styles employed by literates over the years.  In particular, we examined documents in the script known to have been written by the three most famous Bamum script literates: King Njoya and his colleagues, Nji Mama and Njoya Ibrahimou (younger brother of Nji Mama, also a well known Bamum artist).

For these three great Bamum literates, we found that the graphic forms of characters were very similar in appearance.  Also, we found that the king and his men organized the Bamum characters into a set visual inventory: characters presented in groups of two (1a-2ka, 3u-4ku, 5e-6re…), organized in a specific number of rows, etc.  In the BSAP, we refer to this visual inventory as a “syllabary key,” which represents the syllabic characters in their order of recitation (a, ka, u, ku, e, re …) yet in a very distinct arrangement.

Once we had identified and agreed on the characters for an ideal Bamum font, Nji Oumarou Nchare (known for his fine penmanship) was selected to draw those characters on white note cards with a black calligraphy pen. Nchare worked to perfection, and to the satisfaction of everyone in the Bamum Scripts and Archives Project. To complete this work, we presented the designs of the Bamum font to His Highness, Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya. The Sultan declared his satisfaction with the characters and encouraged us to continue with our mission.

At this point, we turned to Mr. Jason Glavy, a well known script fontographer in Japan. Glavy helped us turn our vision into reality. Over the course of several months in 2006, the BSAP worked together with Glavy, sending emails back and forth between Cameroon and Japan, correcting and polishing the aesthetics of our future computer glyphs. Some of the issues we tackled, for example, were: stroke lines sometimes thick and sometimes thin, sometimes vertical lines needed to be thick and/or horizontal lines thin (or sometimes mixed), degree of angles of particular glyphs, etc. After much work, we reached virtual perfection. The Bamum font exists in several variants – JG Bamum Arial, JG Bamum Calligraphic, and JG Bamum Courier – all of which carry Jason Glavy’s initials, a testament to his contribution to the modernization and development of Bamum language and culture (note that Glavy has created many excellent fonts for scripts worldwide, and one can identify them by the JG prefix). The fonts are in TTF form for PC format. Glavy’s font is the only official font of the Bamum palace and Bamum Scripts and Archives Project – no other Bamum fonts are sanctioned for use in the palace, archives, or in Bamum schools. For more information on Glavy, see his website.

Bamum syllabary