Dr. Barbara Frank was one of the few people worldwide doing research on the culture and history of the Ron and Kulere people. She was born in Goßfelden near Marburg in 1936 and died in Marburg in 2004. This year, she would have been 75 years old. She died too early. May her soul rest in peace!
Barbara Frank studied ethnology, geography, prehistory, and folklore in Marburg, Frankfurt am Main and Munich. She earned her Ph.D. 1963 in Frankfurt with a dissertation on “The role of the dog in African culture” (“Die Rolle des Hundes in afrikanischen Kulturen”).
In the 70s and 80s, she was in Nigeria several times, doing research on the culture and history of the Ron and Kulere people. She lived among the Kulere for almost one year and in 1981 she wrote a book about their culture titled Die Kulere: Bauern in Mittelnigeria (“The Kulere: Farmers in Central Nigeria”).
She also published a number of articles on Ron-Kulere culture and history in scientific journals:
- 1974 Handwerk und Handelsbeziehungen im Ron-Gebiet (“Handcraft and trade relations in the Ron area”), Tribus 23, p. 91-130.
- 1974 Zur sozialen Bedeutung des Pferdes bei den Ron oder Challa. (“The social importance of the horse among the Ron/Challa”) Veröffentlichungen aus dem Übersee-Museum in Bremen. Reihe B, Bd. 5.
- 1976 Initiation, Verdienstfeste und Kultbünde bei den Ron und Kulere (“Initiation, festivals and cult societies amiong the Ron and Kulere”), Paideuma 22, p. 123-50.
- 1978 Historical Traditions of the Ron. Africana Marburgensia 11,1, p. 19-42.
- 1981 Zur Bedeutung des Pferdes bei den Ron oder Challa (Plateau-Staat, Nigeria) (“The importance of the horse among the Ron/Challa”) . Tribus 30, p. 135-142.
- 1982 Diskrepanz zwischen Kultur- und Sprachzugehörigkeit der Kulere im nigerianischen ”Mittelgürtel” (On the discrepancy between the cultural and linguistic affinities of the Kulere in the Nigerian Middle Belt). In: Jungraithmayr, H. (Ed.), The Chad languages in the Hamitosemitic-Nigritic Border Area (Papers of the Marburg Symposion 1979), Berlin, p. 144-49.
- 1983 Ron. In: Müller, K.E. (Ed.), Menschenbilder früher Gesellschaften. Frankfurt/New York, p. 204-221.
- 1990 From Village Autonomy to Modern Village Administration among the Kulere of Central Nigeria. Africa 60 (2), p. 270-293.
- 1995 Permitted and Prohibited Wealth: Commodity-Possessing Spirits, Economic Morals, and the Goddess Mami Wata in West Africa, Ethnology 34/4, p. 331-46.
- 2004. Gendered Ritual Dualism in a Patrilineal Society. Opposition and Complementarity in Kulere Fertility Cults. In: Africa 74, 2: 217-240.
From 1980 to 1998, she was associated to the Institute for Ethonology and African Studies at the University of Munich and taught courses in Ethnology in Munich, Münster, Kassel, Marburg, and Kansas State University.
I came to know Barbara Frank shortly before I went to Nigeria for my first field trip in 1989. She provided me with names of Ron people to get in touch with, which was very helpful for me. I wish I would have known her better and spent more time with her.
(Some of the info presented here was first published at the Marburg Univerity website, the source of the photo is unknown to me)