The following text and photographs portray the eastern Margi of Nigeria as I knew them between 1959 and 1987. The photographs were taken during five periods and, with one exception, were all taken in the villages of Kirngu and Humbili.
The word verge, which is used in the title of this exhibition, was chosen for its rich and varied meaning, as may be noted in the quotation from the Oxford English Dictionary above. It is applicable in all of these senses to these, the easternmost Margi.
First, as in the original meaning of the term, their king or Ptil had a sacred staff or verge which he is holding in the photograph at the right.
Second, these Margi live on the verge of the mountains as may be seen in the photograph at left of Humbili villagers hurrying back onto the plateau before nightfall. However, the best illustration of the verge of the Mandara Mountains may be seen in the composite photo at the top of this page.
That panoramic photograph was taken atop Mount Gulak from the old village of Kirngu, which is now deserted. By placing your cursor in the photograph and clicking it you may pan from east to west. The first, left-most scene is the view into Cameroon, then as you move right, you are over-viewing the village of Humbili, its compounds barely discernable. At about mid-picture, very faintly in the distance you can see volcanic cores, the tallest of which is named Kamale. Then as you continue panning, you come to the verge, and the view is down the western edge of the Mandaras with the relocated village of Kirngu in the foreground. In the right portion of the scan you are looking across the Yedseram River into the vast plains of Northern Nigeria.
Finally, in the last and most common sense of the word verge, the Margi were, at the time I began studying them, on the verge of changes so drastic that one might say the society shown in these pictures has virtually disappeared.