A 2008 Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV) report on the defunct West Cameroon Electricity Corporation (POWERCAM) featuring the late Mr. Ebai A. Mbiwan, first Manager of the Corporation (1962-1968).
A 2008 Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV) report on the defunct West Cameroon Electricity Corporation (POWERCAM) featuring the late Mr. Ebai A. Mbiwan, first Manager of the Corporation (1962-1968).
The poem "Rest thee Well," written by Christmas Ebini after the death of singer Bebe Manga, was recently turned into song by the self-described Cameroonian folklore artist, Bate Nico. Listen to the song and read the poem below.
Rest thee well
Queen of melody
Producer of joy and entertainment
Daughter of the mighty tiger
As we celebrate you great life
And see you off your final journey
By Bouddih Adams
Now, is it better to have dual or half Cameroonian citizenship and head a civil society organisation like SOCAM or to have an entire foreigner to head our public institutions? The Director of CUSS, who deals with the very lives of Cameroonians, was a Frenchman. Two Koreans have headed a very strategic corporation like the National Shipyard Industrial Complex (Chantier Naval). A Dutch just left as head of the very delicate national liner, CAMAIR. A Frenchman is heading the very dicey telecommunications sector...
January is the time, when all “bushfallers” who came in to commune with their family and friends during the festive season, are going back to their ‘homes’ abroad. During their sojourn here in the Cameroons, they made arrangements for their siblings and links to join them abroad.
So, after the bushfallers’ massive exodus this January as their return to their homes abroad, there will be another massive exodus of their siblings and links following them. And it will go to on like that throughout the year. If you doubt me, visit the Douala Airport and see how hundreds of young Cameroonians are leaving - fleeing as it were – everyday.
About the Owner
Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta is a professional French-English translator and interpreter. Before launching a full-time career as a translator-interpreter, I worked in the education industry. My professional background and language skillset are a perfect fit for companies working in the fields of intercultural communication, education, marketing, law, medicine and pharmaceuticals. I have worked with several organizations to develop culturally appropriate communication networks that resonate directly with global economic trends.
My educational qualifications include: Master of Arts in Translation Studies, Master of Science in Education, with specialization in Curriculum & Instruction, and a Doctorate in French and Francophone Studies. I am a certified translator and member of the American Literary Translators’ Association (ALTA). I have been a practicing translator-interpreter since 2001. During my leisure time, I write poems, short stories, novels and essays.I have over forty publications to my credit(paperbacks and kindle editions). I blog at http://vakunta .blogspot.com
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All of our translators, interpreters and editors are native speakers of the languages into which they translate, interpret or edit. Our employees entrusted with the critical task of meeting the needs of our clients possess one of the following qualifications: BA, MA, or MS. The competitive advantage of Tewuh Bros Freelance Services Incorporated resides in the experience of its managers and network of translators, interpreters and editors that we have hired. In all cases, translators, interpreters and editors are selected after careful examination of qualifications and work experience. The goal is to ensure that so that their specialization matches the company's clientele needs.
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Posted by Wuteh on Sunday, 29 December 2013 at 08:29 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (0)
Preface by Dr. Kenneth Wilburn, Department of History, East Carolina University
The authors of this provocative book explore distinctions of individual and group belonging, as well as manifestations of not belonging. Written for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and those seeking knowledge about the complexity of identity, Fears, Doubts and Joys of not Belonging examines variations of imposed and self-imposed alienation. Ndi, Ankumah, and Fishkin explore the rich historiography of estrangement in fiction and non-fiction to demonstrate the universality, timelessness, and varieties of alienation. For example, Muslim leaders like Nana Asma’u of the Sokoto Caliphate disseminated educational poems of inclusiveness to the Africans of Gobir alienated by conquest. In contrast, Europeans who organized the Atlantic slave trade sought power and material wealth through mechanisms of intimidation and force that resulted in widespread hopelessness and exclusion. Both groups were victims of alienation, but those of the caliphate were invited in language they understood to participate inside the new society; those who survived the Middle Passage were addressed in languages they did not understand, transformed into chattel, and kept outside settler societies.
Thus, whether inclusive or exclusive in nature, alienation can be imposed, as heretics have often been painfully reminded by the orthodox. Yet alienation can also be willful, as Christian and Sufi ascetics have frequently demonstrated. In this book’s ten chapters, the authors seek balance in our understanding of estrangement by asserting that joy can also come out of willful alienation. From that half-filled glass of life’s serendipity one can often drink just as deeply of joy as one can of despair. This is what Steve Biko meant when he wrote about Black Consciousness, about discovering joy in one’s identity. Alienation can be transformed from a lock into a key to open the collective Global African in us all. Fears, Doubts and Joys of not Belonging moves forward that recent scientific discovery.
Posted by Dr Bill F. NDI on Thursday, 26 December 2013 at 11:01 AM in Aloysius Agendia, Bill F. Ndi, Books, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Cultural, Diaspora News, Dibussi Tande, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Interviews, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Picture of the Day | Permalink | Comments (0)
Ce recueil poétique passe pour un miroir qui se promène dans les coins et recoins de la République du Cameroun. Façonnés dans le parler de l’homme de la rue, ces poèmes font le plaidoyer des sans voix camerounais, de tous ceux qui vivent à la lisière de la société camerounaise nantie. Les thèmes abordés sont nombreux à savoir la culture d’impunité, le cercle vicieux de la corruption, l’abus du pouvoir, le trafic d’influence, le viol constitutionnel, le truquage électoral, et l’inéptie de la bourgeoisie nationale pour ne citer que ceux-là. En somme, Speak camfranglais pour un renouveau ongolais fait un appel de clairon à une nouvelle donne camerounaise.
The poems in this collection are a mirror reflecting the goings-on in the nooks and crannies of the Republic of Cameroon. Crafted in the lingo of the man in the street, these poems speak for the voiceless in Cameroon, for all those who live on the fringe of a rich Cameroonian society. The themes broached are numerous, namely the culture of impunity, the vicious cycle of corruption, abuse of power, influence peddling, rape of the constitution, electoral gerrymandering, and the ineptitude of national bourgeoisie to name but a few. In sum, Speak camfranglais pour un renouveau ongolais is a clarion call for a new deal in Cameroon.
La poésie de Peter Vakunta s’inspire des rues d’Ongola et sa verve la destine à celles-ci. Par ces poèmes, il nous montre que la poésie est parole gestuelle, et le camfranglais, autant qu’une langue est une geste. La geste des pauvres, des laissés-pour-compte, des jeunes, la geste du futur donc. C’est un triomphe de la parole camerounaise que par sa plume, elle devienne poésie. Cette poésie est enceinte d’actions.
Peter Vakunta’s poetry draws inspiration from the streets of Ongola; its verve is destined for the streets. Through these poems, Vakunta portrays poetry as gestural language, and Camfranglais is gestural by virtue of being a language. It is a gesture of the destitute, of the downtrodden, of the youths, and by this token, gesture of the future. That Camfranglais is versified under Vakunta’s pen marks the triumph of CamTalk. This collection of poems is pregnant with action.
Dr. Patrice Nganang is Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature Stony Brook University (SUNY) New York, United States of America
Dr. Peter Vakunta is professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Indianapolis, United States of America. He is author of several books and blogs at http://vakunta.blogspot.com
Posted by Wuteh on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 12:25 AM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Books, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Diaspora News, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (0)
The Congolese military, fighting in tandem with the United Nations peacekeeping force, recently laid siege to the M23 rebel forces, defeating the ruthless militia that had occupied large swaths of land in the eastern part of Congo for the past year. With other rebel forces reportedly on the run, Congo is now on the verge of finding a military solution to the insurmountable problems that have plagued the country from the time it was invaded by neighboring Rwanda in the first Congo War in 1996.
However, last month’s military victory and the demise of the M23 rebel forces, hailed both within Congo and by the international community, would be a Pyrrhic victory at best if there isn’t any genuine political pathway for this country that has had little or no respite from the time it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
What has eluded these Congolese leaders—Mobutu SeseSeko, Laurent Kabila and Joseph Kabila— is the political will to deal with the rivalry that constantly simmers among the over 200 tribes that make up Congo and which intermittently pick up arms to do battle with the central government in Kinshasa.
But lest the Congolese people delude themselves, military victory is never a panacea to the legitimate concerns of the human race. And in the case of Congo, a country rich in mineral resources but often derisively described as “the sick man of Africa”, those who join the insurgency groups against the central government do so out of frustration that their government is blatantly corrupt, woefully negligent and answers to the tribal needs of those in power. These are some of the concerns that the present government would have to address if it’s determined to extricate itself from its current morass.
With the presence of a robust U.N. force inside Congo, which has shored up the morale of the Congolese military against the rebel forces on the battlefield, the question now is whether the leadership in Kinshasa will seize the momentum to bring real political changes within the country.
In power since 2001 following his father’s assassination, I sometimes wonder if Joseph Kabila, Congo’s current president, has the political wherewithal to deal with this myriad of problems. Of the fifteen rebel groups that ran their own fiefdoms throughout Congo between 2001 and 2012, consider that nine of them were founded since Joseph Kabila ascended to the presidency in 2001, authenticating the argument that Kabila is ill-prepared to deal with the country’s political problems.
There was a time too when Jean-Pierre Bemba, Joseph Kabila’s former vice president and formidable opponent, was considered an impediment to peace and the political process supposedly taking place under Kabila. However, what accounts for the political vacuity that still exists in Congo today, even when Bemba—no longer in Congo since May 2008—was arrested for war crimes and now spends time behind bars at The Hague?
Alas, though young, militarily-trained and in power now for twelve years, Joseph Kabila, it seems, is unaware of the missed opportunities that his father, Laurent Kabila, also had even before his assassination.
In 1997, when Laurent Kabila ousted Mobutu SeseSeko, Congo’s ( then Zaire) strongman for more than thirty years, there were hopes that with the end of the cold war—a period during which Congo’s territory was used as a bastion to forestall the spread of communism in west and central African countries — he would, especially with the promise of foreign aid from the United States, restore the tainted image that Congolese had about the U.S. for having supported Mobutu during those tumultuous years.
At the time, the United States stood ready, on the premise that Kabila would address issues that would include human rights and democracy, to provide the Congolese government with assistance in form of healthcare, education and democratic elections. But those hopes were dashed when Laurent Kabila, like his predecessor, resorted to violence, torture and the arbitrary imprisonment of his opponents.
When Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness in 1899, his novella about the atrocities committed by the Belgians against Congolese natives, little could he imagine that in 2013, one hundred and fourteen years later, Congo would still be under darkness, groping for directions, only this time under the awful leadership of its own natives. Conrad would still be aghast— as I am.
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By Peter Wuteh Vakunta, PhD
It is hard to disagree with a weighty viewpoint expressed by a concerned Africanist. In an article titled “Masks and Marx: The Marxist Ethos vis-à-vis African Revolutionary Theory and Praxis” (quoted in Olaniyan and Quayson, 496-503), renowned Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, contends that Eurocentric racism is Manichaean in that it splits the world along racial lines, then assigns a negative, lower value to the world’s non-Western peoples. The assumption is that the rest of the world is primitive, savage, barbarian, and underdeveloped, and that the West is civilized and developed. Manichaean stigmatization is seldom based on knowledge of non-Westerners; it is often based on ignorance reinforced by disingenuous denial disguised in misleading intellectual jargon. Its source is racial prejudice. Teleologically, stigmatization cretinizes non-Westerners, especially Africans. The result is that Africans start to doubt themselves. Worse still, they begin to buy into the fallacy that African history does not exist; therefore, Africans have nothing to be proud of. This reasoning produces the stereotypical epithet of Africans as a “people without history,” to borrow from Eric Wolf (Quoted in Booker, 25). This reasoning denies African peoples access to a usable past from which they can rely in order to construct a viable future.
For centuries, Western powers have systematically stigmatized Africa as the ‘dark continent’ in dire need of enlightenment as they sought ways to justify the wanton theft of her natural resources through covert activities ranging from their roles in genocides, civil wars, the looting of mineral, forest, and land resources, and the overthrow of governments through mercenary activities. This Machiavellian spoliation of Africa has not ceased, what with the existence of monstrous contraptions such as Françafrique? As film-maker, Patrick Benquet, notes in his documentary Françafrique (2010):“Il y a 50 ans, en 1960, les 14 colonies françaises d'Afrique noire devenaient indépendantes. Mais indépendance ne signifie pas liberté: le général de Gaulle confie à Jacques Foccart la mise en place d'un système qui vise à garder, par tous les moyens, légaux ou illégaux, le contrôle de nos anciennes colonies dont les matières premières, et le pétrole en particulier, sont vitales pour la France. »
The most convoluted myth about Western conception of Africa is that which brandishes the continent as a free-for-all-zone populated by a divided people, a continent up for grabs on account of the presumed backwardness and inanity of its peoples. No wonder Howard French wonders aloud in his seminal work A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa (2004) whether or not Africa is a no man’s land. It is no surprise that Africa, a geographical sphere inhabited by a plethora of peoples with disparate tongues, cultures and traditions should have her moments of strife. The most homogenous climes on our planet have their instances of misunderstanding and turmoil too. Such moments should not be seen by merchants of half-truths and sharks ferreting for neo-colonies to meddle in the internal affairs of nation-states. As Mudimbe (1988) notes, Western presumptions about Africa justify the process of inventing and conquering a continent and naming its “primitiveness or disorder as well as the subsequent means of its exploitation and methods for its “regeneration” (p.40).”
Arguing along similar lines, Lyons (1975) notes the consistency with which nineteenth century European commentators regarded Africans as inferior to Whites on the basis of non-existent scientific evidence, quite often comparing the two peoples along the lines of children versus adults: Though they did agree among themselves about which European “races” were inferior to others, Western racial commentators generally agreed that Blacks were inferior to whites in moral fiber, cultural attainment, and mental ability; the African was, to many eyes, the child in the family of man, modern man in embryo (Quoted in Booker, 10).This skewed reasoning, he argues, provided a justification for European imperial conquest of Africa at the Berlin Conference in 1884.History has it that on November 15, 1884 at the request of Portugal, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck called together the major Western powers of the world to negotiate the African Question. Bismarck used the opportunity to expand Germany’s sphere of influence over Africa and forced Germany’s rivals to struggle with one another for territory. What ultimately resulted was a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divided Africa into fifty irregular countries.
This new map of the continent was superimposed over the one thousand indigenous cultures and regions of Africa. The new countries lacked rhyme or reason because European powers had divided coherent groups of people and merged together disparate groups who really did not get along. Little wonder that post-Berlin Africa has remained a battlefield to date, a balkanization that has been decried by French writer Rene Dumont in his work L’Afrique noire est mal partie (1962). It is important to bear in mind that the misrepresentation of Africa constitutes a leitmotif in European colonial literature. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1960) and Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson (1951) are mind-boggling examples of Western literary hypes and half-truths that ought to be debunked by Africa’s litterati. Conrad’s novel depicts the entire continent as backward and primitive. As Achebe points out: "Heart of Darkness perhaps more than any other work, is informed by a conventional European tendency to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest"(Quoted in Booker, 13).
Like Heart of Darkness and Mr. Johnson, many other Western literary works about Africa are overtly contemptuous in their racist depiction of Africans. American readers are probably aware of the portrayal of Africans as savage cannibals in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan novels. But as Booker points out, these writers simply ignored the reality of Africans altogether. The truth of the matter is that the characterization of Africans as cannibals and savages; Africa as an uninhabited wilderness where courageous Europeans could go on exciting adventures, served as justification for the European broad daylight theft of Africa's wealth. Africa is truly the richest continent on the planet in terms of natural resources. Any bickering over this truism is disingenuous. The soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, abounds in coltran. Coltan is short for Columbite-tantalite— a black tar-like mineral found in major quantities in the Congo.
The Congo possesses 80 percent of the world's coltan. When coltan is refined it becomes a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electric charge. The properties of refined coltan is a vital element in creating devices that store energy or capacitors, which are used in a vast array of small electronic devices, especially in mobile phones, laptop computers, pagers, and other electronic devices. Foreign multi-national corporations have been deeply involved in the exploitation of coltan in the Congo. The coltan mined by rebels and foreign forces is sold to foreign corporations. Although, the United Nations in its reports on the Congo do not directly blame the multi-national corporations for the conflict in the Congo, the United Nations does say that these companies serve as "the engine of the conflict in the DRC."
As can be seen from the foregoing, Africa has been the object of Western manipulation for a very long time. Innumerable incidents, including the transportation of millions of Africans across both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans as slaves, the colonial swoop on Africa, and neo-colonization have produced disastrous effects on the cohesion and productive capacity of African economies. Yesterday it was the French, British, Portuguese and Spaniards. Today, it is the Chinese. The Chinese are our neo-colonizers, as noted in Howard French’s new book China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (2013). This book is a trenchant, immersive account of the burgeoning Chinese presence in Africa—a developing empire already shaping the future of the world's incipient superpower and its fastest growing continent. French draws a nuanced portrait of China's economic, political, and human presence across the African continent. In today’s Sino-African new-colonies we meet a broad spectrum of China's dogged emigrant population, from those singlehandedly reshaping African infrastructure, commerce, and even geography (a timber entrepreneur determined to harvest the entirety of Liberia's old-growth redwoods) to those barely scraping by but still convinced of Africa's opportunities. French's acute observations offer illuminating insight into the most pressing unknowns of modern Sino-African relations: Why China is making these cultural and economic incursions into the continent and how extensive they are; what Africa's role is in this equation; and what the ramifications for both parties and their people-and the watching world-will be in the foreseeable future.
There’s an urgent need, I believe, for Africa’s intelligentsia to re-assess the current conundrum in which Africa finds itself and address the horrors suffered by Africans as a result of the cancerous trio—racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism. Many sons and daughters of Africa are smart and have a clear vision of where they want Africa to be down the line. But paranoia and egocentrism have bred African inertia and paralysis that have become our own very undoing. To fight the good fight Africans need to know their own history. Current events are shaped by events of the past. That is why Memmi (1965) points out that “the most serious blow suffered by the colonized is being removed from history” (91). It is of critical importance for Africans to understand the impact of the continent’s past relations with the West in order to empower themselves to deal effectively with the present. The onus is on all African intellectuals to educate the peoples of Africa about the consequences of Western imperialistic parasitism in Africa. Europeans and other Western powers continue to mislead and misinform Africans about their own history. Half-truths are shoved down the throats of Africans and we swallow them. Trevor Roper, an eminent English historian at Oxford, for example, claims that “prior to European adventure in Africa, there was only darkness, and darkness was not a subject for history” (Quoted in Obiechina, 1975, p. 9). Our historians need to descend from their ivory towers and do the tedious but vital job of debunking these myths about Africa. They must educate misinformed Westerners about the glorious history that Africa had prior to the advent of our grave-diggers (colonizers).
It is time to unmask the sanctimonious hypocrisy of benighted Westerners who thrive on deliberate falsehood conceived to veil their handiwork in the underdevelopment of Africa. The deconstruction of the continent of Africa is the leitmotiv in Walther Rodney’s masterpiece, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1973). The younger generation of Africans seems too comfortable in their comfort zones. The onus is ours to call into question the condescending Eurocentric interrogations about Africa such as: where would Africa be without Europe? Would African peoples not be half-naked, half-starving warring tribes eternally at each other’s throat fighting for land without the benevolence of Westerners? We have heard enough of these hollow comments. Africans have to be strategic in their deals with both Westerners and Easterners. Africans have to desist from feeling permanently injured by a sense of inadequacy about their won achievements. African scholars must be courageous enough to unravel the myth about Africa’s collective amnesia. In the words of an illustrious son of the soil, Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1986): “The classes fighting against imperialism even in its neo-colonial stage and form have to confront this threat with the higher and more creative culture of resolute struggle” (3).
In today’s global economy, imperialism has become a monopolistic parasite, a veritable bugbear of the African people. Western capitalists employ all means, often unholy, to superimpose their hegemony on Africans. The debilitating effects of imperialism on the lives of Africans are real and deep. Africa’s economic paradigms have been rendered dysfunctional on account of the strangle-hold of Western institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund who continue to sing spurious Hosannas of foreign aid for Africa to the detriment of our domestic industries. The cry of the disenchanted sons and daughters of Africa resonates in Dambisa Moyo’s book titled Dambisa. Dead Aid: Why Aid is not Working and How there is a Better Way for Africa (2009). Moyo argues that “The net result of aid-dependency is that instead of having a functioning Africa, managed by Africans, for Africans, what is left is one where outsiders attempt to map its destiny and call the shots”(66). Moyo’s book is an economic blueprint intended to serve as a paradigm for weaning Africa off the debilitating aid-dependency syndrome that has kept the continent in perpetual economic stagnancy for decades.
In this essay, I have argued that the Manichaean stigmatization of Africa is not benign.It is pregnant with socio-economic ramifications. Slavery did irreparable damage to the psyche and fiber of the black man; colonialism added salt to injury. And now neo-colonization has been hashed to deal Africans a death blow. The denigration of Africans and their way of life is a calculated Western contraption intended to provide a reason for the economic rape of Africa. To inveigle Africans into believing that the West is overly concerned about the collective survival of Africans, Westerners bounce around hollow buzzwords such as "civilizing mission", “foreign aid,” “humanitarian aid,” “structural adjustment”, and other loud-sounding nothings. Africans are not big babies; they are resilient grown-ups endowed with a sense of discernment.
Booker, Keith, M. The African Novel in English, Oxford: James Curry, 1998. Cary, Joyce. Mister Johnson. New York: Harper, 1951.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness, Englewood: Prentice-Hall, 1960.
Dumont, René.L’Afrique noire est mal partie.Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1962.
_.False Start in Africa. New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1969.
Europe News. “Nine French Arrested in Chad for
Kidnapping 103 Children” retrieved April 23, 2007 from
French, Howard. A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa. New York:
Knopf, 2004. __. China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New King, Martin Luther. ‘Togo: Land of Contrasts’,
Africa Today(2005) 11.8: 22-24. Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the colonized, Translated by Howard Greenfield.
New York: Orion Press, 1965. Moyo, Dambisa. Dead Aid: Why Aid is not Working and How there is a Better
Way for Africa. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Mudimbe, V.Y. Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988. Ngugi, wa Thiong’o. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature,
Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1986. Obiechina, Emmanuel. Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel, New
York: Cambridge University press, 1975. Olaniyan, T. and Quayson, A. African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory,
Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.
Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington: Howard University Press,
Françafrique is a term that refers to France's relationship with Africa. The term was first used in a positive sense by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, but it is now generally understood to denounce the neo-colonial relationship France has with its African former colonies(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Françafrique). [50 years ago, in 1960, 14 French colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa gained independence. However, independence did not imply freedom: General De Gaulle had asked Jacques Foccart to set up a system that would give the French the leeway to use all means, fair and foul, to keep all former French colonies in the leash, notably their natural resources and crude oil that are vital for the survival of France]
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7afrique_(documentaire) In November 1884, the imperial chancellor and architect of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck, convened a conference of 14 states (including the United States) to settle the political partitioning of Africa. Africans were not invited or made privy to their decisions. Bismarck wanted not only to expand German spheres of influence in Africa but also to play off Germany's colonial rivals against one another to the Germans' advantage. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time. The Berlin Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African Continent. By the time Africa regained its independence after the late 1950s, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily. The African politico-geographical map is thus a permanent liability that resulted from the three months of ignorant, greedy acquisitiveness during a period when Europe's search for minerals and markets had become insatiable.
“Breaking the Silence,” retrieved on November 21, 2013 from http://www.congoweek.org/coltan-facts.html
Empire in Africa: New York: Knopf, 2013.
French, Howard. A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa. New York: Knopf, 2004.
__. China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New
King, Martin Luther. ‘Togo: Land of Contrasts’, Africa Today(2005) 11.8: 22-24.
Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the colonized, Translated by Howard Greenfield. New York: Orion Press, 1965.
Moyo, Dambisa. Dead Aid: Why Aid is not Working and How there is a Better Way for Africa. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
Mudimbe, V.Y. Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Ngugi, wa Thiong’o. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1986.
Obiechina, Emmanuel. Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel, New York: Cambridge University press, 1975.
Olaniyan, T. and Quayson, A. African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington: Howard University Press, 1972.
Françafrique is a term that refers to France's relationship with Africa. The term was first used in a positive sense by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, but it is now generally understood to denounce the neo-colonial relationship France has with its African former colonies(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Françafrique).
[50 years ago, in 1960, 14 French colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa gained independence. However, independence did not imply freedom: General De Gaulle had asked Jacques Foccart to set up a system that would give the French the leeway to use all means, fair and foul, to keep all former French colonies in the leash, notably their natural resources and crude oil that are vital for the survival of France] http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7afrique_(documentaire)
In November 1884, the imperial chancellor and architect of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck, convened a conference of 14 states (including the United States) to settle the political partitioning of Africa. Africans were not invited or made privy to their decisions. Bismarck wanted not only to expand German spheres of influence in Africa but also to play off Germany's colonial rivals against one another to the Germans' advantage. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time. The Berlin Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African Continent. By the time Africa regained its independence after the late 1950s, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily. The African politico-geographical map is thus a permanent liability that resulted from the three months of ignorant, greedy acquisitiveness during a period when Europe's search for minerals and markets had become insatiable. “Breaking the Silence,” retrieved on November 21, 2013 from http://www.congoweek.org/coltan-facts.html
Posted by Wuteh on Thursday, 21 November 2013 at 04:56 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Diaspora News, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (0)
Peter Vakunta, Ph.D
Literary translation is a highly meta-linguistic transaction requiring not only perspicacity but also mental flexibility, the more so because far from being a mindless replacement of lexical items in the source text by equivalent linguistic elements in the target text (Catford, 1966); translation practice has metamorphosed into cultural exegesis . What accounts for the complexity of literary translation as opposed to the non-literary is the peculiarity of the stylistic aesthetics and socio-cultural matrices in which works of literature are hatched.
One of the vocal voices in this school of thought is House (2002) who contends that “in recent years there has been a shift in translation studies from linguistically-oriented approaches to culturally-oriented ones” (92). Arguing along similar lines, Steiner (1998) maintains that translation is an “act of elicitation and appropriative transfer of meaning” (312).He likens translation to an operative convention which derives from a sequence of phenomenological assumptions about the coherence of the world, about the presence of meaning in formally antithetical semantic systems.
It is tempting to deduce from the foregoing that there is tacit agreement of sorts among translation theorists who view translation as an act of cultural hermeneutics . In this essay, rather than dwell on the underpinnings of translational theorization, we would rather shed light on the ramifications of viewing translation practice as an act of interpretation (exegesis). Our adumbrations in this discourse do not apply to technical and specialized texts. The reason is that the formalistic and aesthetic qualities of non-literary texts call for an entirely different set of skills that will not be broached in this paper. Suffice it to say that the faithful translation of a non-literary text depends on the translator’s deliberate conformity with professional canons; with the rules of the trade as it were. Literary translation is governed by rules that underscore best practices; these canons constitute the crux of the discussion that follows.
Translation as Cross-cultural Communication
In a bid to produce a text that meets the demands of dynamic equivalence from a cultural viewpoint , competent translators function as cultural brokers. Dynamic equivalence determines the inter-textual, intercultural and inter-lingual transfers that occur between source and target texts. In a bid to transfer meaning holistically from source to target texts, seasoned translators endeavor to unravel the latent significations embedded in the source text signifiers. House (1997) observes that the source text ought to be analyzed at the levels of language, register and genre. The reason she provides for such analysis is that in conveying information from one language to another, translators seek functionally equivalent linguistic and non-linguistic equivalents in the receptor language.
Dynamic equivalence is a key notion is translation theory and practice. The genesis of this discourse dates back to Eugene Nida, who in 1964 argued that translators should translate so that the effect of the translation on the target language reader is roughly the same as the effect of the source text on the source language reader. It is worth mentioning, however, that this is not meant to suggest that the translator should always find one-to-one categorically or structurally equivalent units in the two languages. Sometimes two different linguistic units in different languages perform the same function.
As a cultural communicator, the onus rests with the translator to bridge the gap between source and target text significations at both linguistic and cultural levels. As Siegel (2013) observes in one of her write-ups, “A source text could be thought of as a blueprint. If one strays from the instructions given, they end up with an entirely different product than the one originally intended.” Fidelity to the source text means that the intention with which the source text was created has to be faithfully reproduced in the target text. Viewed in this light, the practice of translation appears to be a deliberate act of cultural interpretation.
Translation as Interpretation
The thesis according to which literary translation is a sort of interpretation has gained leverage among translation practitioners. It is customary for literary translators to seek out the author’s thoughts and communicative intent (Buhler, 2002). To put this differently, effective translation derives from the translator’s ability to decipher the significations of the words in the source text. The term ‘interpretation’ is used in this paper to mean ‘exegesis,’ the act of deciphering the meanings embedded in the linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of the source text.
Exegesis presupposes a deliberate attempt by the translator to unveil the communicative motivations of the author of the text s/he is rendering. Competent translators are mindful of the fact that written texts embody among other things, cultural peculiarities, worldview and imagination of members of the linguistic community for whom the texts were written. The task of the translator does not end with uncovering the hidden meanings in the source text; an even more important demand on the translator is the task of transposing the unraveled meanings over into the target language.
Translation as Transposition
Jones (1997) sheds light on the signification of the term ‘transposition’ when she notes that transposition is a non-literal translation device. Transposition involves a change in grammatical categories, namely nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and more. For example, the source text in French which reads “quelques jours après sa mort, la presse fit des révélations sur la vie privée du président” could be rendered as “A few days after he died, the press leaked out, information on the president’s private life.”
Notice that the noun phrase “sa mort” has been translated as a verbal statement, “he died.” We must not lose sight of the fact that subtle differences exist between English and French. One such difference is that English is a synthetic language whereas French is analytical. To do a good job, the translator is expected to be conversant with structural discrepancies between source and receptor languages. Such knowledge enables the translator to resort to modulation as a translation technique.
Translation as Modulation
Modulation as a translation strategy involves a change not in grammatical category as with transposition, but rather in the thought pattern of the source text writer. The ability to skillfully effect a message modulation distinguishes competent from incompetent translators. Highly effective translators are those who have mastered the ropes and know when to resort to modulation in a bid to not only maintain the figurative connotation of the source text message in the target text but also to demonstrate sensitivity to the sensibilities of the target language community.
Sensitivity to Target Language Sensibilities
Texts are not written in a vacuum; they are offshoots of cultural milieus. To a large extent, deeply held beliefs in a target language community determine the extent to which a translated text will be accepted or rejected. This has wide-ranging ramifications for the marketability of translated works. As Lefevere (1992) puts it, “translators are interested in getting their work published. This will be accomplished much more easily if it is not in conflict with standards for acceptable behavior in the target language culture; with that culture’s ideology” (87).
Seasoned translators know that if the source text is at variance with the ideology of the target culture, the translator has the latitude to tinker with the text so that the seemingly offensive passages are modified to conform to the ideology and poetics of the recipient community. This presupposes that the translator disposes of a sizeable socio-cultural baggage. Without such knowledge, the translator would be hard pressed to find relevant analogies in the target language culture and literature. The foregoing discourse places a huge premium on the primacy of cultural literacy as an effective operational tool in literary translations.
The question that begs to be asked at this juncture is why is it important to know all that has been said above? How valuable is this knowledge to budding translators, translation instructors and students of translation? We will provide answers to these questions below. The intent of this paper has not been simply to provide a plethora of modes of achieving faithful translations. The primordial intention has been to provide instructors and students of translation with some food for thought. The second and, certainly more important rationale has been to provide instructors of translation courses with a working model for conducting translation studies. We maintain that knowledge of the source and target languages alone will not suffice to be a good translation instructor.Given the polytonality and hybrid nature of the texts that are often assigned for translation, appropriate instructional models must be conceived for teaching literary translation. Culture-based literary texts, undoubtedly call for culturally-oriented pedagogical models. I will discuss one such model—the Bloom-Hermeneutic (Exegetic) model below.
The Hermeneutic Model propounded by Schleiermacher and Bowie (1998) could be used in conjunction with Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) to create an effective model for teaching translation. This dual model of textual analysis would be germane for teaching literary translation. The theory of hermeneutics underscores the importance of interpreting, not only the hidden significations embedded in the source text but also the situational dimensions that constitute the substructure on which the text is anchored. The model facilitates the teaching of translation by enabling instructors to come to grips with the rudiments of text analysis. The model is anchored on the perception that a holistic understanding of a text is feasible when the relationship between individual parts and the whole has fully been grasped.
Bloom’s Model of textual analysis requires instructors to create higher-order learning tasks that require translation students to interact with source texts at six different levels: Evaluation (making value judgments about issues discussed in the text, resolving semantic controversies, assessing the function of vocabulary in context and other textual issues); Synthesis (creating a unique original product that may be in verbal form or a combination of concepts to form a new whole, using old concepts to create new ones); Analysis(organizing ideas and recognizing trends, finding the underlying structure of communication, identifying motives); Application(using and applying knowledge, problem-solving, use of facts and principles implied in the source text); Comprehension(interpreting, translating from one medium to the other, demonstrating, summarizing, and discussing the signifier-signified relationship); Knowledge (recall of information, discovery and observation).
In a nutshell, instructors tasked with teaching the translation of culture-based texts cannot but be like the texts they teach—at once bilingual and bicultural. The Bloom-Hermeneutic Model is distinctive by its circular nature. It is built on the concept that neither the whole text nor any individual parts can be understood without reference to one another, hence, its circularity. The circularity inherent in the Bloom-hermeneutic Model implies that the meaning of a text is to be found within its cultural, historical and literary contexts. The interface between socio-linguistics and literature implied in this model makes it particularly suited in teaching the translation of hybrid literatures. There is no gainsaying the fact that this two-pronged pedagogical paradigm is exegetic and thus suitable for teaching the translation of multi-layered texts that call for multi-faceted analysis. Notes
Meta-linguistics is the branch of linguistics that deals with language and its relationship to other cultural behaviors. It is the study of dialogue relationships between units of speech communication as manifestations and enactments of co-existence.(cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalinguistics)
Exegesis is a term used in translation circles to describe the unraveling of the significations embedded in the linguistic and non-linguistic components of source-text. Ljuldskanov (1969) posits that exegesis refers to the translator’s willful attempt at deciphering the context, style and intent of the source text.
Buhler (2002) opines that viewing translation as interpretation conditions the translator to “examine the social factors present in the surroundings of the author” (62). For more on exegesis, see Steiner’s “The Hermeneutic Motion” in After Babel: Aspects of language and Translation (1998). Also see Vakunta’s The Role of Extra-linguistic Factors at the Exegetic Stage of the Translation Process (1991).
Hermeneutics is the theory of textual interpretation, especially the interpretation of Biblical literary and philosophical texts. Modern hermeneutics includes both verbal and nonverbal communication as well as semiotics.
According to Nida (1974), dynamic equivalence is to be defined in terms of the degree to which the receptors of the message in the receptor language respond to it in substantially the same manner as the receptors in the source language.
Online communication in a translation course taught at the University of Indianapolis by Peter Vakunta, 2013.
Buhler, Axel. “Translation and Interpretation,” in Translation Studies: Perspectives in an Emerging Discipline. Ed. Riccardi, Alessandra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Cadford, J.C. A Linguistic Theory of Translation. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.
House, Juliane. Translation Quality Assessment: A Model Revisited. Tubingen: Narr, 1997.
_. “Universal Versus Culture Specificity in Translation,” In Translation Studies: Perspectives in an Emerging Discipline. Ed. Riccardi, Alessandra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Lefevere, Andre. Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context. New York: MLA, 1992.
Ljudskanov, Alexander. “The Semiotic Approach to the Theory of Translation,” in Language Sciences, 1975.
Nida, Eugene. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Brill: Leiden, 1964.
Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Vakunta Peter W. The Role of Extra-linguistic Factors at the Exegetic Stage of the Translation Process. MA Thesis, University of Buea, Cameroon, 1991.
Posted by Wuteh on Sunday, 06 October 2013 at 05:30 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, News Dispatches, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (0)
More than 40 years after the mysterious work of art – AFOAKOM – found its way back to Kom from a New York museum, Kom sons and daughters “komvened” in New York from June 21-24 in celebrations marking a rich cultural heritage that circumstance and fate intertwined with the city of New York. Perhaps lost on New Yorkers, the Fon of Kom via a video recorded message reminded his citizens residing in the USA of the renown bestowed upon Kom by Afoakom, like theStatue of Liberty to New York. Unfathomable and unfair comparison between the Statue of Liberty and Afoakom, perhaps, but a contrast that most aptly mirrors the educational gap that is leaving the poor and needy worse off particularly in Cameroon. It is the assessment that I made after listening to one of the Co-founders of “Hope for Children Cameroon” choke and cry in the midst of a compelling presentation that sent participants reaching deep into their pockets and purses to pull out cash and write checks in support.
Click on the links below. Enjoy the read. Sincerely. BFN.
Posted by Dr Bill F. NDI on Sunday, 07 July 2013 at 10:27 AM in Aloysius Agendia, Bill F. Ndi, Books, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Cultural, Diaspora News, Dibussi Tande, Emil I Mondoa, MD, George Esunge Fominyen, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh | Permalink | Comments (0)
By Peter Vakunta, PhD
At a time when the Republic of Cameroon is squirming under the pangs of misgovernment, bastardization of political power, lethal tribalism, and endemic corruption, it is germane to pose the following thorny questions: what does it mean to be an intellectual in Cameroon today? Are Cameroonian intellectuals merely servants of special interest groups or do they have a greater social responsibility? As I see it, the Cameroonian intellectual has the choice either to side with the downtrodden and marginalized or with the powerful. Without fear or favor, the genuine intellectual has to have the courage to blow the whistle on blatant human rights violations. Most importantly, the intellectual must have the forum in which to talk back to authority, the more so because unquestioning subservience to authority in Cameroon and elsewhere in contemporary society is tantamount to a threat to an active and sane intellectual life. In this essay, we will endeavor to address these issues as eloquently as possible.
Celebrated literary and cultural critic, Edward Said, sees the intellectual as a scholar whose role it is to speak the truth to power even at the risk of ostracism, imprisonment or death: “Real intellectuals…are supposed to risk being burned at the stake, ostracized, or crucified”(7). Thinking along the same lines, Jacoby (1987) defines the intellectual as “an incorrigibly independent soul answering to no one” (quoted in Said, 72). Both Said and Jacoby agree that the intellectual is supposed to be heard from, and in practice ought to be stirring up debate and if possible controversy.
In light of the status quo in Cameroon under the presidency of Mr. Paul Biya, it behooves the intellectual to speak the truth, ruffle feathers and rock the boat without caring whose ox is gored. We must caution that speaking the truth to authority should not be construed as some sort of Panglossian idealism. Speaking the truth to the powers-that-be amounts to carefully weighing the options, picking and choosing the right one, and then sagaciously articulating it where it can do the most good and trigger desired change. The Cameroonian intellectual’s voice may be lonely, it nonetheless, has resonance because it associates itself the aspirations of a people, the common pursuit of a shared ideal—the Summum Bonum.
Said observes that “the hardest aspect of being an intellectual is to represent what you profess through your work and interventions, without hardening into an institution or a kind of automaton acting at the behest of a system…”(121). He further notes that the intellectual who claims to write only for himself or herself, or for the sake of pure learning , or abstract science is not be, and must not be believed. To my mind, nothing is more reprehensible than the intellectual frame of mind that induces avoidance, the turning away from a principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You shy away from appearing politically ‘incorrect’; you are scared of seeming untowardly polemical because someday you hope to earn a big prize, perhaps even a ministerial appointment or ambassadorship in your home government. In the eyes of a bona fide intellectual, these habits are corrosive par excellence. If anything can denature and neutralize an intellectual it is the internalization of such nefarious habits.
Personally, I have encountered these corrupting habits in one of the toughest unresolved problems plaguing the wellbeing of Cameroonian polity—the Anglophone Problem, where fear of speaking out about one of the thorniest national questions in Cameroonian history has hobbled, blinkered and muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it. The Cameroon Anglophone Problem manifests itself in the form of vociferous complaints from English-speaking Cameroonians about the absence of transparency and accountability in state affairs, in matters relating to appointments in the civil service, the military, the police force, the gendarmerie and the judiciary.
In short, the Anglophone Problem raises questions about participation in decision-making as well as power-sharing in a country that prides itself on being Africa in miniature. The Anglophone Problem is the cry of the disenchanted, the socially ostracized and the oppressed people of Cameroon. Anglophone Cameroonians incessantly lament over the ultra-centralization of political power in the hands of a rapacious Francophone oligarchy based in Yaoundé, the nation’s capital, where the Anglophone with limited proficiency in the French language is made to go through all kinds of torture in the hands of supercilious-cum benighted Francophone bureaucrats who look down on anyone speaking English. Richard Joseph talks of “the neutralization of Anglophone Cameroon” on page 82 of his seminal work, Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo (1978).
Despite the abuse and vilification to which outspoken advocates of self-determination for Anglophone Cameroon may be subjected, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual. The Cameroonian intellectual need not climb a mountain or rooftop in a bid to declaim. The genuine intellectual must speak his or her mind quietly and clearly where they can be heard. Most importantly, they should present their views in such a manner as to drum up enough support for an ongoing process,for instance, the cause of justice for marginalized Anglophone Cameroonians. Informed Cameroonians know that the statutes and constitutional stipulations on official bilingualism in Cameroon, for instance, is a sham.
Arguing along similar lines, Ayafor posits: “There has been unrelenting efforts and frustration at the fact that language policy has not contributed to national integration through linguistic fusion” (2005, 140). Unlike most other African countries which give pride of place to indigenous languages, French and English, languages of predatory imperialists, remain official languages in Cameroon in stark contradiction of the national constitution which stipulates: ‘The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavor to protect and promote national languages (Article 1.3: 5).
No intellectual can speak up at all times on every single issue plaguing national life. But, there is a compelling duty to address the constituted and authorized powers of one’s own country, which are accountable to citizenry, especially when those powers are exercised in a manifestly abusive, arbitrary, and disproportionate manner. For the Cameroonian intellectual, there is no sitting on the fence; there a reality to be faced, namely that Cameroon is an extremely diverse nation with over 236 indigenous languages and cultures, an abundance of natural resources and accomplishments, but it also harbors a redoubtable set of internal inequities and inequalities that cannot be ignored, not the least of which are unsound regional development paradigms and human rights abuses.
Cameroon is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed in 1948, reaffirmed by every new member state of the UN. Cameroon is also a signatory to solemn international conventions on the treatment of workers, women, and children. None of these documents says anything about less equal ethnic groups, tribes or peoples. The aforementioned instruments stipulate that all human beings are entitled to the same freedoms. Of course, these rights are callously violated on a daily basis in Cameroon. Joseph decries human rights abuses and oppression in Cameroon as follows: “Not only has the political system been devised to deprive the citizen of any real say in the choice of his governors, he has also been divested of any control over their actions…confronted with concerted abuse by agents of state… the people of Cameroon are legally powerless”(115).
Faced with this state of affairs, the onus rests with the Cameroonian intellectual to raise moral questions as they involve one’s homeland, its power, and its mode of interacting with its citizens. This does not mean opposition for opposition’s sake. What it means is asking questions, making distinctions, and committing to memory all those issues that we tend to gloss over in our rush to collective judgment. Arguing along similar lines, Said maintains: “The intellectual today ought to be an amateur, someone who considers that to be a thinking and concerned member of a society one is entitled to raise moral issues at the heart of even the most technical and professionalized activity as it involves one’s country…”(82).
There has been a lot of idle talk lately about something called ‘political correctness,’ which Said qualifies as “an insidious phrase applied to academic humanists, who, it is frequently said, do not think independently but rather according to norms established by a cabal of leftists…”(77). The caveat is that blind adherence to this dogma is likely to curtail individual and collective freedoms. The corollary is that the intellectual does not represent an inviolate icon but a personal vocation with a slew of issues, all of them having to do with a hybrid of emancipation and civil rights issues.
In a nutshell, intellectualism in Cameroon should be deemed fundamental to the attainment of knowledge and basic freedoms. Yet, these constructs acquire meaningful interpretation, not as abstractions but as experiences actually lived by the individual intellectual. This is true of intellectuals in Cameroon as it is of intellectuals elsewhere. Thus, the fundamental task of the Cameroonian intellectual is explicitly to rationalize local problems, universalize national crises, assign greater scope to the sufferings of his or her people, and last but not least, to associate those experiences with the suffering of underprivileged global citizens. This does not imply being an arm-chair critic of the home government at all times, but rather of thinking of the intellectual vocation as maintaining a state of constant alertness, of a perpetual willingness to not let half-truths blind us from seeing reality through a broad prism.
Person who views a situation with unwarranted optimism. [cf. Dr Pangloss , a character in Voltaire's Candide (1759)]
Ample light has been shed on this issue in my book Cry my Beloved Africa(2008)
Ayafor, Isaiah, Munang. “Official Bilingualism in Cameroon: Instrumental of Integrative Policy?” In Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism.Ed. James Cohen et al., Somerville: Cascadilla Press, 2005.
Cameroon, Government. Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. Yaoundé. Government printer, 1996.
Jacoby, Russel. The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. New York: Basic Books, 1987.
Joseph, Richard. Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1978.
Said, W. Edward. Representations of the Intellectual. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Vakunta, P.W. Cry my Beloved Africa: Essays on the Postcolonial Aura in Africa: Bamenda: Langaa, 2008.
Voltaire. Candide. Paris: Haitier, 1986.
About the Author
Professor Vakunta teaches at the United States Department of Defense Language Institute, POM-CA
Posted by Wuteh on Monday, 03 June 2013 at 06:26 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Diaspora News, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (0)
Autopsy of a Malignant Nation-State: Revisiting Richard Joseph's Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo (1978)
Reviewer: Peter Wuteh Vakunta, PhD
Richard Joseph's Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo (1978) is an x-ray of the legacy of a terrestrial god that failed woefully. In his 217-page collection of essays, Joseph paints a befitting epitaph for President Ahmadu Ahidjo, the man who ruled Cameroon high-handedly from 1959-1982. Ahidjo governed Cameroon through the modus operandi of personalization of power. As Richard puts it, "One of the consequences of his primarily personal legitimacy... is that he has been able to proceed ruthlessly towards the concentration of powers in his own hands" (77). One important hallmark of Ahidjo's consolidation of personal power is the fact that the offices of the Presidency became principal structures of recruitment for the higher political echelons of the regime.
Ahidjo ruled Cameroon through decrees that imposed a state of emergency on the populace indefinitely. Joseph observes that the corollary of this state of affairs is that "the country has been buried in apathy, then debility, and today torpor..." (97). It is no exaggeration to describe Ahidjo's governmental paradigm as the "fascisation of the regime" (101). In other words, the maintenance of public order in Cameroon was reinforced by the implementation of a draconian measure code-named a state of mise en garde or state of alert. In this light, Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo is Richard Joseph's tirade on the repressive regime of Ahmadu Ahidjo, a man who governed his compatriots as though he were a colonial master doing the dirty job of the homeland in a benighted region of Planet Earth.
The highpoint of Ahidjo's totalitarian regime, according to Joseph, was the proliferation of centres d'internement administratif or detention camps where innocent citizens were incarcerated indefinitely on trumped-up charges.In the words of the author himself, "To these detention camps the State could send for a period of two months, renewable indefinitely, individuals considered dangerous to public security" (102).Yet it was apparent that the so-called
dangerous individuals' included any person deemedsuspect' by the regime, and often even innocent citizens with whom some supporter of the regime had wished to settle personal scores. The author further observes that among the camps of internment established in Cameroon since 1961, the most notorious ones are the camp of Mantoum in the Bamoun area with a capacity of eight thousand places; the camps of Yoko, Tchollire and Tignere in the north; and those of Lomie and Yokadouma in the southeast. Joseph laments the fact that "In the years following the establishment of these camps, many of their inhabitants have disappeared without trace"(102).
Joseph's seminal book is a lampoon on Cameroon's dysfunctional judiciary. He maintains,"It can be categorically asserted that judges in this country have long lost the function of impartially administering the laws, and have become instead agents and justifiers of the repression" (102). He goes even further to qualify the judiciary under Ahidjo as a militarized judicial system. In a nutshell, Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo could be labeled Richard Joseph's diatribe on Gaullism in post-colonial Cameroon. The first manifestation of Gaullism in Ahidjo's Cameroon, according to Joseph, is the fact that in his approach to statesmanship, Ahidjo calls to mind erstwhile French President, Charles de Gaulle. The second approach is more constitutionalist and shows, in the author's view, the way in which "the Gaullist constitution of 1958, and subsequent amendments, strongly influenced constitution-making in Cameroon..." (194).
In sum, Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo is a seminal work that documents the trajectory that Cameroon has taken from accession to political independence in 1960 to date. And the picture is gloomy. Cameroonians have had the ill-luck of having been governed by two lame duck presidents--Ahmadu Ahidjo and Paul Biya, none of whom has passed the litmus test of visionary leadership. Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo is recommended reading for scholars and students of political science desirous of broadening their knowledge bank in the domain of the realpolitik in postcolonial Francophone Africa.
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Like apartheid in South Africa before 1994, or slavery in the United States before 1865, Cameroon's Supreme Court has —in the aftermath of last April's senatorial election (and for the umpteenth time)—conspired with the current administration to institutionalize fraud and deception as weapons for its own survival. Not surprising, many Cameroonians, some of whom have been fed this caper over the years, now wrongly believe that there might be a patina of legitimacy associated with the Biya government.
By Peter Vakunta, PhD
By Peter Vakunta, PhD
Cameroon has produced a handful of literary virtuosos but Bate Besong towers over them all on account of his audacity to say the undecipherable, to pose intriguing questions, and to take the powers-that-be to task for dereliction of duty. BATE BESONG: WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS is our celebration of one man’s vendetta against a cancerous regime—the government of President Paul Barthélemy Biya'a bi Mvondo of Cameroon. Bate Besong is an acclaimed playwright of Anglophone extraction whose unsettling play BEASTS OF NO NATION (1991) earned him a stint in the dungeons of la République du Cameroun. The intent of BATE BESONG: WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS is to unravel the interrelation between the signifier and signified in the poetry of Besong. The study hinges on the marriage between form and content, the import of poetry to Besong and the manner in which he uses his poetic verve as a political weapon.
The question of language choice is of critical importance to a holistic understanding of BATE BESONG: WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. Besong takes advantage of poetic license to create his own words but his neologisms are not gratuitous. New words enable him to appropriate the English Language; he fashions out a brand of English which is at once universal and indigenized enough to carry his peculiar worldview and imagination. But BB’s English is still “in full communion with its ancestral roots though altered to suit its new African surroundings,” to borrow words from Chinua Achebe (Morning Yet, 61).
The following succinct analysis of one of his poetic anthologies, titled JUST ABOVE CAMEROON: SELECTED POEMS(1980-1994)(1998)suggests that his poetry has undergone substantial maturation dictated by events in the poet’s life. His versification has evolved from youthful exuberance to the poised recollections of a mature scribbler. Existential vicissitudes have given new directions to the writing of a man deemed exceptionally difficult to comprehend by virtue of his lexical choices. Besong writes what he wants; he writes the way he wants. Most importantly, he writes with a target readership in focus. Besong tailors language to match envisaged audiences. His quest for le mot juste, necessitated by intent, has resulted in the creation of cameroonianisms. He strives to align the signifier and the signified for the purpose of discursive effectiveness. A noteworthy trait of Besong’s poetics is recourse to intertextuality or literary allusions. Besong is a voracious reader who takes delight in exteriorizing what he has ingested; traces of his gargantuan appetite are palpable in his fictionalization of lived experiences as the following review of his poetic anthology, Just above Cameroon (1998) reveals.
In this anthology, Bate Besong takes a swipe at political shenanigans. Like a gladiator, BB wields his literary sledge hammer with the dexterity that he is noted for. Just above Cameroon is a rap on abuse of power and political demagoguery as seen in this excerpt: “Dry tongues rasp, loosely/ lately/they were charred (you must not deny this)” (1). This verse captures the leadership hollowness that characterizes the government of President Paul Biya of Cameroon. In the words of the poet himself, “We had faded off the monolithic edge, into silence/chimerical, into unfurling climacteric babel/of right-wing hue” (1).
It is important to pay close attention to Besong’s diction. The poet chooses his lexical items very carefully in a bid to paint a befitting picture of the political circus that the Republic of Cameroon has become. Semantically laden words such as “chimerical,”“climacteric,” “monolithic,” and “hue” serve the purpose of underscoring the phantasmagorical make-believe of political double-speak in Mimboland, a.k.a Cameroon. There is no better word to portray the angst and frustration of Cameroonian mobs hell-bent on pursuing the Lion Man (Paul Biya) to his ultimate demise than the word “hue”: “Since that mob was respectable though you contrived to die …/ What holiness had you, to break into my sacred fast?” (91)
It should be noted that Besong’s recourse to the word “babel” goes a long way to pinpoint not just the double-edged nature of political discourses in Cameroon but also the hotchpotch of the nation’s linguistic landscape that is bedeviled by more thorns than roses. The poet’s verbal brilliance and linguistic jugglery is noticeable in every verse. Yet a total understanding of Just above Cameroon calls for a reader who has been in touch with the changing socio-political atmosphere in Cameroon as the poet’s regionalized diction, display of scenes, and the occasional tossing about of historically significant expressions indicate. In “Facsimile of a Jackal,” Besong denounces vehemently the insanity and imbecility of Cameroon’s ruling elite as these verses seem to indicate: “ravening moronic specters/ Fugue-heads, noddle-brained.”(1) The poet laments the dire consequences of misgovernment by morons. The prevalence of macabre words in this poem bears testimony to the decrepitude of the geographical expression code-named Cameroon... Words like “cadaver,” “specters,” “putrescence” and “mummified” conjure images of death that hang over the heads of Cameroonians like the sword of Damocles.
The theme of political extravaganza is echoed in “The party’s over”(2), a poem in which Besong laments the fate of Cameroon’s wretch of the earth as the following excerpt indicates: “Before their Party was over/ Long we have listened to the howl of human misery/Thedying voices of that human world below”(2). Notice the manner in which the poet puts emphasis on the dichotomy between the opulent and the indigent in his homeland. The verse “that human world below” is an allusion to the downtrodden of Cameroon. Besong’s use of the word “Party,” with capital “P” should be understood to mean the wheeling and dealing of the thieving cabal (Beti mafia) stationed in Yaoundé. It could also be construed as an allusion to the ruling political party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Party (CPDM).The “Party” is a long metaphor that Besong sustains throughout the entire poem in a bid portray the CPDM as the nation’s grave-digger as evidenced in the following excerpt: “With oversized tons/ of money-power/plunderers of the fruits of our apple trees/Looters of the minerals of our unwilling earth” (2).
There is no gainsaying the fact that this poet nurses a nagging phobia for the ruling elite in Yaounde which he associates with wanton pillaging of the nation’s natural resources: “ Before the Party was over/ We have watched with awe our oil bonuses/ spreading/Along their cobbled amphi-/Theaters”(2). Besong resorts to the word “theaters” as a double entendre. A double entendre is a word or phrase open to two interpretations. The word “theaters” refers both to the political theatrics prevalent in all tiers of government in Cameroon as it is to the chambers in which political shenanigans are concocted under the watchful eyes of Mr. Paul Biya. It is of critical importance to note that Cameroon’s erstwhile president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, is also demonized in “The Party’s Over” as seen below : “But when I returned /The hour had come, friend/ for the Shah to flee /and Leave his stooges behind...”(2) The beauty of this poem resides in its historical fertility. Several eponyms are used by the poet to shed light on significant historical events in Cameroon, not the least of which is the unexpected departure of Ahidjo from power in 1982 and the handing of power over to his lackey, Paul Biya: “Or the Shah to flee/and leave his stooges behind...”(2)
In “Prison blues” Besong explicates why the caged bird sings. The poem is the versification of the travails of the poet during his incarceration in the wake of the staging of his play Beasts of no Nation (1990) as we read in “cyclones of my internment embalm/voices of vespers (3). The poet uses his verses to satirize the dehumanization of political prisoners in Cameroon: “In that human abattoir/ queues of two or three/ hundred esquadrons” (3). Prison life in Cameroon, according to Besong, is analogous to terrestrial Hades. The zombification of Cameroon’s military is evident in “cannibal militaire/they are the beau monde/of the octopan/jubilee” (3). Besong’s recourse to foreign language words calls for a comment. Foreign language words serve an illocutionary purpose in poetry. Besong’s foreignization of English through the use of words such as “esquadron” and “militaire”adds local color to his fiction. Oftentimes, he uses foreign words as euphemisms. The word “militaire,” for instance, is intended to be understood as a euphemism for the kakistocracy (government of soldiers, by soldiers, and for soldiers) that the government of President Paul Biya has become.
At the same time, the poet resorts to scatology to paint an acrid picture of the nation’s correctional services which he describes as follows: “animal dung, only/ such quisling functionaries/ in “New” Deal demonolatory” (5). In literary jargon, "scatology" is a term used to denote the literary trope of the grotesque. It is used to describe works that make particular reference to excretion or excrement, as well as to toilet humor. However, Besong’s recourse to scatology goes beyond mere humor. It is a powerful tool that enables the poet to depict the moral and physical degeneration prevalent in Cameroon. In “Their Champagne Party Will End,” the poet resorts to outright vulgarity as seen in “It was during the golden epoch; there was talk of Unity, Reconciliation, Relf-Reliance and all that shit”(22). It is indisputable that Besong could be just as civil as he could be uncouth.
The rape of democracy and the reign of impunity in Cameroon’s prisons are captured in “New Deal demonolatory.” In the same vein, the poet lampoons the reign of terror that has become common currency in Cameroon’s prisons: “Only from such deranged insomniacs/such precursors of the hydraulics/ of terror, dyspeptic gouls” (5). It should be noted that a ‘ghoul’ is a folkloric monster associated with graveyards and consumption of human flesh. By extension, the word ‘ghoul’ is used in a derogatory sense to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose profession is linked directly to death, such as a grave-digger. Besong’s prison wardens are described as “gouls” because they have a predilection for torture. The poet equates prison wardens to “Djinns, lunatic-butchers/toe-breakers/ anthropophagi/iguanas whose porridge is human gore” (6).It would appear these obnoxious civil servants are the poet’s pet-peeve given that he portrays them as “scallywags in the employ of that carousing/ évolué of another/kangaroo traoreian swagger” (6).
This loathsome manner of depicting penitentiary workers in Cameroon is symptomatic of the ill-treatment to which the poet was subjected during his days of incarceration. He describes himself as “a lonely eagle chained behind bars” (6). Specific words in the poem are chosen to describe the abusive comportment of Cameroon’s correctional officers. Some of these words are “terror” (5), “golgothas” (5), “larcerations” (5) “power-crazed” (5). It is noteworthy that the metaphor of a caged bird is sustained throughout the entire poem for the express purpose of adumbrating the powerlessness of the rank and file in Cameroon’s legal system as seen in “a lonely eagle chained behind bars/in the alloy of caravan imbecility”(9). Besong takes issue with the irrational behavior of the Cameroonian Head of State who would rather invest in Baden-Baden than invest at home: “From Baden-Baden, His beastship/a ghastly taffeta/ of his winsome yammering” (6).
The poet picks and chooses macabre images that underscore the lifeless existence of his countrymen and women: “Iron-grills muffle sepulchral/ silhouettes in that barouche there…/How wills you rid them/of the character of asphyxiation? (7) This poem is filled with ontological ironies. Besong resorts to a spiteful lexicon that sheds ample light on the existential traumas and dilemmas of Cameroonians. “Prison blues” is a rap on government by reign of terror and dereliction of duty. The themes of debauchery and power drunkenness are leitmotifs in the poem as seen in “A debauched/ Carcase-on-High/When humanoid embryos/ famish for geysers/ Cannibal, phylons fertilize/ Life-denying excellencies” (10). Besong deplores wanton killing by the Biya regime: “of prodigal gore/And there was clotted marrow/ and bone” (10).
In “Grey Season” (11), the poet castigates abortive statecraft. Notice the pun on “statecraft” and “stategraft.” A pun is a play on two of the meanings a word may have. Because readers must make a conscious effort to distinguish between the different semantic meanings of the word and find out which one the author intended, the pun activates two meanings at the same time. In other words, readers get both the obvious usual meaning of the word and the frequently less obvious, more unusual meaning the author intended. To put this differently, they get the “norm” and the “deviation” from that norm simultaneously. As Lefevere would have it, “the clash between the two heightens the pun’s illocutionary power” (52).
Besong uses the pun in the extract above to blow the whistle on the corruption that has become endemic in Cameroon: “He quenched monastic ires, incessant/Amidst a bedlam-of-stategraft” (11). The unexpected departure of Ahmadou Ahidjo from power and subsequent scheming to return to power are referenced in this poem: “Lone Herbsman, he crafts/ Treasonable catechisms/ In the throes of Exile” (11). The foregoing is an allusion to Ahidjo’s abortive attempts to overthrow Paul Biya after inadvertently handing power to him in1982. It is important to mention the fact that the word “greys” is used repeatedly in a bid to underscore the problem of power vacuum that could result from power mongering.
The theme of exile, its physical and psychological ramifications constitute the theme of “The Beauty of Exile” (12). Besong contends that exile re-awakens in the exile the desire to return home: “Do not say you are abandoned/ And deserted Friend/ For it is the Beauty of your exile/ That has shown how ugly we have become” (12). The perennial Anglophone Question is broached in this poem in the following excerpt: “Who will bridge the firepower/Of our anger across the Mungo…/ who will convert the broodings of these people over the past/ Into bouquets to a new dawn?”(12). The Anglophone Problem could be summed up as the legitimate grievances of English-speaking Cameroonians who feel marginalized in the land of their birth. Anglophobia is manifested in the form of linguistic apartheid, and unbalanced apportioning of governmental posts of responsibility.
The tragedy of Lake Nyos gas explosion and the conspiracy theory that followed in its wake thus fueling speculations on the real cause of this cataclysm constitute the subject matter of “The Kaiser Lied” (13). The poem puts the blame of the Lake Nyos Disaster squarely on the shoulders of Cameroon’s Head of State and his Western accomplices, notably the Israelis: “the pogrom charters/ with the Yiddish bitumen/ of Jew Wiesenthal-in whorls, suited/in whorls of quisling carnations…”(14). Besong believes that the Lake Nyos Gas Disaster was not an act of God; rather it was a human-orchestrated act attributable to the Israelis as the following excerpts seem to suggest: “ So that Sabbath over when the Kaiser had lied…/ the gadget of genocidal rotors…/ dropped its nuclear cargo/on the startled vertebrae/of “gkpim!/ gkpim!/ gkpim!/”(15). Notice the poet’s use of ideophones: “gkpim! / gkpim! / gkpim! /” to translate the thunderous noise made by the explosion. As Philip Noss points out, an ideophone is “a descriptive word that …creates an emotion. It creates a picture; it is sensual, enabling the listener to identify a feeling, a sound, color, texture, expression, movement, or silence …. The ideophone is poetic; it is in the purest sense imagery (75).
Besong takes umbrage at the Cameroonian Head of State and compares him to white ants that excel in wrecking the foundations of monuments. The poet is strong in his conviction that Paul Biya sold his compatriots for a colossal sum of money which he then spirited to banks in Switzerland and Baden-Baden: “That is why if you want to fathom/ the greed of a nation-wrecker/Jump, jump into a Swiss-bound, Baden-Baden vault” (13). By directly implicating foreigners in the Lake Nyos Gas disaster, Besong clamors for an investigation into the real causes of the seismic occurrence. He points an accusing finger directly at the Israeli president Ariel Sharon: “he; nation-wrecker sought /lethal artesians/of an Ariel Sharon …” (14).
Besong’s pen is no respecter of social status or ranks as the foregoing analysis illustrates. He writes what he wants, not caring a fig whose ox is gored. That’s why he does not spare Cameroon’s lone Cardinal, Wyghan Christian Tumi, for failing to call the powers-that-be to order. In “You must come to our rally, “the poet addresses the Cardinal directly: “This pharaonic cabal had lied/ Time is not a pontiff/who pardons simonies/emceed” (16). It is clear that Besong comes down hard on the Cardinal for condoning the misdeeds of the powers-that-be in Cameroon. This state of affairs has resulted in economic doldrums and perennial stagnation of the Republic of Cameroon. Besong sometimes resorts to medical terminology in an attempt to diagnose the causes of the malady that has afflicted Cameroon. A plausible example would be: “soporific lanterns, like hollows contained” (25). It should be noted that a soporific drug tends to produce sleep. In the context of Cameroon, the alcohol is a potent drug utilized by the government as opium of the people.
In “For Alexandre Biyidi-Awalaa a.k.a. Mongo Beti Eza Boto Waggoner of Les Deux mères de Guillaume Ismael Dzewatama,” Besong pays homage to a freedom fighter and renowned man of letters. Mongo Beti is portrayed in this poem as a whistle blower: “Ah! Inquirer—as Akometan bloom flowers you’ll find/ and drunken and insidious air/screaming with bones which fold and die” (18). Notice the poet’s recourse to sinister imagery once again, as a pointer to the torments of a troubled mind. Mongo Beti is portrayed as a harbinger of good tidings for his people: “Your history huts are made of wild flower and sycamore/a steel fort defying” (18). But no sooner has the poet raised the hope of his readers than he plunges them once again into a melancholy tale of woes: “You’ll find/and drunken and insidious air/ screaming with bones which fold and die/ to the paralyses of a fugitive’s sigh…” (18).
“Guilt” is a poem that speaks volumes about the death of virtue and the reign of graft in the Republic of Cameroon. The poet is clearly despondent in the face of widespread corruption that eats deep into the body politic of his native land: “For, I too have crushed into silence/the daylight robbery of hands soiled/ with ‘heroes’ blood & ill-gotten gains” (19). This poem is the poet’s protest against institutionalized thievery, corruption, influence-peddling, and make-believe as this excerpt reveals: “For I too have exhumed the cadaverous past/long worn its glorified ostrich mask…” (19) “Guilt” is the lonesome song of a disenchanted son of the soil at odds with a regime that feeds on the carcasses of its own people: “I too have exhumed the cadaverous…” It is a poem that sheds light on the rationale for the caged bird’s song of hopeless: “I too have imprinted a century’s dark decade/ (this, to the best of my ability)/ hidden, in a curfewed song!”(19)
Casting his eyes farther afield beyond the frontiers of the motherland, Besong poeticizes the demise of yet another valiant son of Africa—Thomas Sankara. In “For Osagyefo Thomas Sankara,” the poet pours opprobrium on Sankara’s murderers: “Mongrelized Iscariots/ were in fact bred there” (20). The poet’s recourse to Biblical allusions is noteworthy. Readers who belong in cultures in which the Bible does not function as a sacred text may want to find out if there are analogous canonical texts that would enable them to better understand the poet’s allusions. Biblical literature tells us that Jesus Christ met his death through one of his disciples christened Judas Iscariot. In a similar vein, Besong uses this symbolism in reference to the scheming of Sankara’s childhood friend, Blaise Compaoré, in whose hands he met his death. “For Osagyefo Thomas Sankara” is a poem that satirizes the insidiousness of power- mongering in Burkina Faso and Africa as a whole.
It should be noted that Burkina Faso is intended by the poet to serve as metonymy for the African continent. What transpires in Burkina Faso is replicated continent-wide. Compaoré’s scheming to eliminate his childhood friend is laid bare in this verse: “Blaise now, as if he has uprooted a baobab/and heaved it on his shoulder” (20). Besong compares Blaise Compaoré to a vulture as seen in this excerpt: “now like carrion-brained/ mannequin whose/ half-breed mongrels/ co-puppets all bleached/ plotter-faces in shadow below” (21). Worse still, Compaoré is portrayed as a lackey of France, doing her dirty job in Africa: “Blaise Compaoré/France expects every traitor/to do his duty” (21) behind closed doors: “now that the bastilles are closed to public view” (21).
Besong pours an equal amount of venom on another lackey of France, President Paul Biya of Cameroon in “Their Champagne party will end” (22). Biya and ilk are not content with stealing from State coffers, they resort to occult practices in a bid to stay in power in perpetuity: “Indeed, they have sworn fealty to their masonic lodges/ & to each other to bankrupt our national coffers/The curse on the heads of the corrupt banditti” (22). Note that the word ‘banditti’ refers to a robber, especially a member of a gang or marauding band. Besong has the conviction that Cameroonian politicians without exception are robbers. They steal from State coffers, they steal from the electorate, they steal from each other, and worse still, they steal from the poor! The poet cast aspersions on the thieving bunch as follows: “A plague on the heads of a corrupt banditti” (22).
Recourse to occultism as a governmental modus operandi is echoed in “So they’ll take it upon themselves, for reasons/ best known to themselves to speak the folklore of their free-masonry…” (23) Nevertheless, the poet is strong in his conviction that this macabre party will be short-lived: “But their champagne party will end…” (22). “Their Champagne party will end” is the poet’s message of hope to the marginalized peoples of Cameroon. The poet is telling the Cameroonian rank and file to not lose hope because the end is near for the dictators and tormentors at the helm in Cameroon.
Besong bemoans the fate of the exploited proletariat.: “Day after day/When our workers died of chronic shortages/of overwork and exposure/ it was fashionable for the repulsive old creeps/ with large baskets of cash/to give their champagne parties in open defiance of the/victims they had exploited wretched…”(22). The poet’s metaphor of “revelry” should be construed as wild merry-making, especially noisy festivities, involving drinking large amounts of alcohol by politicians and their acolytes. In this light, “Their Champagne party will end” could be seen as a lampoon on wastefulness, and debauchery in Cameroon. The poem satirizes the misappropriation of oil revenue in Cameroon and absence of accountability at the presidency of the Republic: “We have watched our oil bonuses spreading/along their cobbled facades” (23).
The poet decries wasteful spending on white elephant projects nationwide: “Somewhere up the fringes of their Integration, it was indeed/ fashionable to erect white elephant structures for a/pampered nostra” (23). Besong predicts the end of this leprous regime in “The Party’s Over!”(2).The poet contends that silencing dissenting voices through violence seems to be the modus operandi of inept governments like that of Paul Biya. Witch-hunting, arrests and incarceration are some of the contraptions employed to contain popular discontent by underperforming government officials. As Besong would have it, “People who spoke out too inconveniently/it was fashionable to invite them to gallows/built with multiple steel hooks/& permanent nooses, swinging…” (23).It is pertinent to note that rule by secret policing was Ahidjo’s governmental apparatus. The fact that Cameroon under Ahidjo was a de facto police state characterized by arbitrary arrests and detention, press censorship and wanton abuse of human rights is well documented in Joseph Richard’s book (1978). Besong’s poetry corroborates Richard’s concerns.
Stylistically, “Their Champagne party will end” is a very rich a poem. It abounds with metaphors (“a devil of a hurry” (23), allusions (“the arriviste facto” (23), and similes ((“bodies splitting like rotten calico” (23). Parallelism is another literary device that the poet uses adeptly. The verse “Their Champagne party will end” is a constant refrain throughout the poem. Repetition re-enforces concepts and accentuates the impact of the spoken word on the psyche of the listener. Each time a word is reiterated, the reader creates a visual interconnection between the signifier and the signified.
Besong adumbrates the theme of physical and psychological exile in the poem titled “Exile.” Physical exile is broached via the leitmotif of departure as the following excerpt suggests: “I anoint my feet/with swift, O! Such swift/ Cunningness…” (24). In contradistinction, psychological exile is perceived as extricating oneself from the stranglehold of hatred and spitefulness:” Applaud themselves from evil/Labyrinths of alien hate/Let malevolent minds, flourish” (24). It bears noting that the line of demarcation between physical and psychological exiles is blurred in Besong’s poem. To put this differently, both phenomena meet somewhere along the ontological trajectory.
“Eve of an apocalypse” is captivating in many respects but the aspect that the reader would admire the most in this poem is code-switching: “tricks/to relume under/the palaver tree/ Mfam aja-oh-o!”(25). In a footnote, the poet sheds light on the signification of this indigenous language expression: “salutation to the god of retribution” (25). Another instance of code-switching is the following: “Assaloumou Aleykoum/aley koum salaam/Malikum salaam!”(26). These expressions are culled from Arabic, a language that is spoken alongside Hausa in African countries like Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and more. Native tongue words enable the poet to express cultural specificity. They are effective tools for the transmission of indigenous knowledge and sensibilities.
Code-switching is an effective cross-cultural communication tool used diligently in “Eve of an apocalypse.” It enables the poet to express the socio-cultural specificities and speech mannerisms of Cameroonians in a European language as seen in the examples above. Notice that “oh-o!” and “O!” are invocations. Besong invokes the god of retribution to rescue his people from the stranglehold of political vampires, the cabal working at cross-purposes in Yaounde. He underscores the fact that misgovernment spells doom for the nation’s future: “of a cannibal/pharaoh whose obsequies/foreshadow our bleak futures” (26). In “Eve of an apocalypse” Besong takes the reader on a walk down memory lane.
The poem is rich by virtue of its historicity. It brings into the limelight the historical tragedy of Cameroon: her colonization by three distinct European nations—Germany, France and Great Britain. This triple hegemony has resulted in a fragmented colonial heritage and its attendant ills which the poet captures as follows: “to be emptied, into our silhouette/ memory/ which is our flabbergasted country/fractured at genesis” (26). The word “genesis” is an allusion to the partitioning of Cameroon between France and Britain by the League of Nations on July 10, 1919 (Percival, 2008) following Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Colonization bastardized Cameroonian indigenous cultures; it alienated the people from ancestral roots. It is for this reason that Besong enjoins his people to embark on a return to roots in the poem titled “Poetry is”: “Phoenix of Ujaama/ Soyinka not Hitler/Peace now, not Hiroshima/ Nyerere not Marshall Amin/ Easter phase of Ujamaa” (27). “Poetry is” provides the poet with a raison d’être for writing poetry.
“The Grain of Bobe Augustine Ngom Jua” celebrates Cameroonian nationalism. Ngom Jua is portrayed as a symbol of Anglophone nationalism. The poem is a eulogy for a fallen political hero: “They tore apart limb by limb/the primeval psaltery over the pine trees/ Crying Bobe’s fame” (28). The poem smacks of post-mortem remorse. It is also a poem of rejuvenation. Besong calls on the upcoming generation to pick up the cudgels and fight for self-determination; they must assume positions of leadership: “the plague on our heads/ if we fail the generation of young Dante” (29). Readers need to pay attention to Besong’s literary allusion to Dante, a major Italian poet of the Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Commedia and later called Divina by Boccaccio, is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. Why would Besong refer to the younger generation of Cameroonians as “young Dantes?” That is because he sees in them the revolutionary genius akin to Dante’s that would transform Cameroon into a habitable clime.
Historical accountability is the subject matter of the poem titled “April 1984”. The poet’s documentation of the April 6, 1984 aborted coup d’état against incumbent President Paul Biya is significant, firstly because Cameroonians had never seen anything of its kind before, and secondly because post-coup reprisals were unfathomably gory: “They hung like cut-pumpkins seething/skewered-grain on a glen/of gallows” (31). The coup attempt is widely viewed as one of the most crucial events in the history of Cameroon since independence in 1960. It was a very bloody occurrence as this excerpt indicates: “From the dark recesses of one Friday’s / Chilling scourge/ A plague, breeding novel/ Horrors took root…” (31). Besong’s harrowing tale of this power tussle speaks volumes about the failed democratic process in Cameroon.
It is not by accident that Besong’s book of poems has the allure of circularity—it commences with a poem on political shenanigans and ends with a poem on political spuriousness titled “Druidical Rites” (34). This poem portrays politicians as chameleons and, therefore, not deserving of respect nor trust: “To masked sphinxes around me/ I had never seen” (34). “Druidical Rites” is the meditation of a solitary scribbler. It is a poem in which history repeats itself: “Of waters whose cawing, I have heard” (34). Morose as Besong may sound in this anthology of poetry, it must be noted that the book is not bereft of sensual love. “Kristina” is an outburst of sensual emotions: “Queened; shod my feet with bouquets my love/And wines of calm-rites at harvest-tides” (28). “Kristina” eulogizes the poet’s filial love for his progeny: “Celebrate. From joyful womb which my seeds pollened/ Skein manger-sheafs, in proper seasons, yield…” (28).
In sum, JUST ABOVE CAMEROON serves as a mirror that reflects the socio-political goings-on in Cameroon. The creative genius, esthetic excellence, universality of concerns, and the germaneness of the themes addressed in Besong’s book of poems speak volumes about the mental fertility of the poet. The themes are context-specific and may defy comprehension for readers who are not acquainted with Cameroon, its people, and politics that serve as the matrix for the poet’s literary creativity. This, notwithstanding, the poems are totally enjoyable when the initial perceptual barriers have been surmounted. Just above Cameroon is a seminal work of literature that focalizes on the short-comings of a rogue government, the regime of Mr. Paul Biya. Besong views Cameroon as a nation that self destructs.
Achebe, Chinua. Morning yet on Creation Day: Essays. London: Heinemann, 1975.
Besong, Bate. Just above Cameroon.Limbe: Nooremac,1998.
Dante, Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. Boulder: Project Gutenberg, 1308.
Joseph, Richard. Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadou Ahidjo. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1978.
Lefevere, André. Translating Literaure: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context. New York: MLA, 1992.
Noss, Philip A. “The Ideophone: A Dilemma for Translation and Translation Theory. Ed. Paul Kotey F. New Dimensions in African Linguistics and Languages. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1999.
.“Translating the Ideophone: Perspectives and Strategies of Translators and Artists.” Eds. Angelina Overvold E. The Creative Circle: Artist, Critic and Translator in African Literature. Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003.
Percival, John. The 1961 Cameroon Plebiscite: Choice or Betrayal. Bamenda, Langaa, 2008.
About the author
Professor Peter Vakunta teaches at the Defense Language Institute in California
Posted by Wuteh on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 01:37 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Diaspora News, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (3)
On Wednesday, 15 May 2013, a band of students armed with machetes, hammers, clubs and other homemade weapons invaded the campus of the University of Buea.
In the process, they broke down doors and windows of carefully selected staff offices, destroyed furniture and equipment and looted equipment. Besides burning one administrative care valued at thirty million francs, they severely vandalised five other vehicles, students' restaurant, and smashed all the windows and doors of the security post. Nine unarmed guards on duty were severely wounded. The destruction is valued at over eighty million francs.
By Joyce Ashuntantang*
The Hudson River may separate New York City and the State of New Jersey, but the Ex- Students from Saker Baptist College, Limbe, fondly known as Sakerettes plan to create a bridge of their own during their 12th annual convention hosted by the New York and New Jersey chapter from August1-4. The convention which will take place in the enchanting Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel situated strategically a few minutes from New York City is sure to be a highlight of the summer season for many. The four day extravaganza will include a convention kick off ceremony by city representatives, a general assembly, a tour of the Big Apple, and the highly anticipated fundraising dinner-gala designed to titillate the palates and rejuvenate the soul.
The gathering is expected to bring Sakerettes and their guests from all corners of our amazing globe. Over a span of fifty years Saker Baptist College went beyond its mission of training young Cameroonian women as it enrolled students from other countries including Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Caribbean and India. Consequently, while the convention will be steeped in the sounds and tastes of Cameroon, it will display the rich international heritage of that prestigious college perched on a hill in Limbe, Cameroon.
New York/New Jersey- Home of the 2013 ExSSA USA Conventtion
If you know the Sakerettes, then it is okay to assume that you will be in the threshold of superlatives. The New York/New Jersey chapter under the leadership of Dr. Nessie Ndive has put together a convention package that has been described as “magical” and it will be for a good cause too.The Ex-Saker Students will be raising funds to build a new dining hall for their alma-mater. This is supposed to be a golden jubilee gift in celebration of the school that nurtured them into extremely productive members of society.
It is worthy to note that ahead of their convention, and in their pace-setting mode, Ex- Saker Students Association (ExSSA), USA, launched a nationwide impact day campaign in the spirit of strengthening local communities. The ExSSA motto, Love, Unity and Sisterhood, not only enjoins Sakerettes to love one another in a united sisterhood, but also to uphold the abiding commandment “love thy neighbor as thy self”. In this regard, ExSSA chapters were encouraged by their National President, Rev. Esther Tanga Gadpaille, to extend this love by synchronizing their activities on a chosen day. The first Saturday of April was adopted as "ExSSA Impact Day." The pioneer ExSSA impact day fell on April 6th 2013 and ExSSA Chapters in Maryland, Georgia, Dallas, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Minnesota and even individuals of the Members at large chapter carried out an activity to benefit their respective local communities.
ExSSA DC Metro a.k.a DC Divas, handcrafted two hundred cards and sixty-five friendship bracelets for Children at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, as part of the program “Thoughtful Treasures." This is a program which brightens the stay of children who come from all over the USA and around the world by placing a thoughtful treasure in their mailbox each day for the duration of that stay, some of which could be very long.
ExSSA-Minnesota made a difference in world hunger by volunteering for “FEED MY STARVING CHILDREN” and organization whose mission is "feeding God’s starving children hungry in body and spirit.”
It is in this spirit of uplifting our common humanity in a fun atmosphere that the ExSSANs will welcome their guests from August 1-4 2013.
Well, when New York City is called “the Big Apple” and the State of New Jersey is “the garden State,” it is only logical to expect Sakerettes to recreate paradise at this convention- at least in human terms!
*Proud ExSSAN, Class of 1983.
By Seth Vignes - Culled from http://www.gofundme.com/SCDinCameroon
Bringing a Novel, Low-Cost Diagnostic Test for Sickle Cell Disease to Bamenda, Cameroon
Each year over 200,000 infants are born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) on the African continent. A vast majority of them are not properly diagnosed at birth, or during their lifetime, because of the prohibitive cost of laboratory tests required for a definitive diagnosis (e.g. hemoglobin electrophoresis or genetic screening). Within West Africa, 9% of these infants will die before reaching adulthood due to complications arising from their disease (primarily infections) – most of these deaths can be prevented through administration of prophylactic antibiotics, folic acid, fluid therapy and lifestyle adjustments, if SCD is properly diagnosed early in life.
Continue reading "Fighting back against Sickle Cell in Cameroon - Will you Join?" »
Sometime in the coming day or two, the Supreme Court will rule on the senatorial (s)elections of last April 14. Whatever the outcome, not much will change. The CPDM will stay firmly in charge. Dictatorship would have won another battle.
It is no surprise.
Not much was expected to change. At least, not with the die-hard, "come no go" CPDM so firmly committed to sabotaging the will of the people. Not after the SDF crawled into bed with the CPDM. Now we must deal with the by-product of this act of political incest.
By Joseph M. Ndifor (Opinion Writer)
When a host of South and Central American countries got plagued by military coups in the 1980s by a passel of US-trained military officers, there was a fierce debate in America whether its military institutions — particularly the School of Americas located at Fort Benning, Georgia — could be vicariously liable for the abysmal human rights records that those of them who subsequently seized power on returning to their home countries left in the wake of governing.
Book Review: My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth by Esther Lamnyam. Createspace Independent Publishing, 2012, 76 pp. Paperback, $15.00. ISBN 147762340X
Reviewer: Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Ph.D
In the wake of the publication of her riveting book, Love under the Kola Nut Tree: What City Moms Didn’t Tell You about Creating Fulfilling Relations (2007), Lamnyam has come up with yet another masterpiece titled My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth (2012). This new brainchild details the poet’s conversations with herself, with God and Man. This book of poems is captivating in several aspects but the quality that captivates the reader’s attention is the poet’s meticulous chronicling of her childhood experiences as seen in the following eulogy of her birthplace: “Land of smooth undulating hills/sinuously manifesting meandering rivers/land with valleys impregnated with rich fertile soil/with the hill-side savanna on natural Olympics in the wind…/ Land of my birth” (12).
Notice how Lamnyam resorts to figurative language in a bid to create vivid images about Mbot, the cradle of her birth in the minds of readers: “Land with valleys impregnated with rich fertile soil” (12). By endowing Mbot with human qualities the poet underscores the affectionate relationship she entertains with her place of birth. In a similar vein, she utilizes the poetic device of parallelism for the purpose of creating impactful images in the mind of the reader as seen in the following excerpt: “Land of smooth undulating hills…/ Land with Valleys impregnated…/ Land of my birth. / Land with the originalities…/Land with down-to-earth people…” (12-13).The esthetic value of this poem derives from the poet’s use of the rhetorical device of repetition.
It is repetition that gives dynamism to the poet’s recollections as seen in the passage above. Each time the word “land” is reiterated, the impact grows stronger. Put differently, the word relates the kernel of meaning which it embodies. Other repeated words in the poem like “people,” “hill,” and “hillside” recall the utterances which have preceded them. These words bear dual verbal significations. Parallelism is a technique that Lamnyam exploits skillfully to translate orality into the written word. A proper appreciation of the poems contained in My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth would depend on the reader’s awareness of the oral material from which the artist draws her inspiration.
My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth broaches a myriad of ontological themes, not least of which is the Manichaean partitioning of time in the rat-race on which humankind has embarked: “There is time for everything/ a time to make friends/ and a time to ignore friends/ time to be rude/ and a time to be polite…/ a time to quarrel God/and best of all /a time to worship Him” (9). The Manichaeism implied in this poem is quite inspiring given its ability to egg the reader onto surmounting the superficiality of social intercourse and daily reflections. This urge to transcend the superficial is captured in “What’s in a name?”(10) in which Lamnyam calls into question the quintessence of nomenclature: “There is reputation in a name/When the bearer is one of great deeds/ When the bearer has great achievements/There is shame in a name /When the name provokes consciousness of guilt/When it brings disgrace(10-11).
In “Love’s agony” (53), Lamnyam adumbrates the paradoxes of love, notably the downside of affection: “She loved for many years in vain/ Her idol never noticed her suffering/Hers was a type of love/ With constant fear of criticism” (53). These existential tribulations unveil the ugly face of unrequited love that often engenders despondency and hatred as the following excerpt seems to reveal: “Loneliness saddened her / Passion overwhelmed her/ Joy-killing love transformed her” (54). Some of the poems in this collection complement each other. The theme of unrequited love, for instance, resurfaces in “Things Change” (55) when the poet laments: “Today your child in me yearns for you/We are separated in thoughts/We plan our quarrels/ We walk and sleep apart” (55). So much for love! But a glimmer of hope surfaces toward the end of the poem: “Let’s give each other a chance/For our baby’s sake/For love’s sake/Because you know you love me/And I love you” (56).
My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth could be read as a treatise on womanhood. In “Laboratory Report”(49) the poet pontificates on gender equality: “ Man talks to its woman…/ Main objective is to be with woman/ Is most productive when supported by woman/ Win more battles when it has Woman to come back to”(50). It is tempting to infer that Lamnyam puts a higher premium on femininity, strong in her conviction that man is doomed without woman: “Its species could become obsolete without Woman,” (50). The morphology of the word “Woman” is significant. The poet uses upper case each time she writes” “Woman” to underline the importance of the fair sex. It should be noted that she resorts to the possessive pronoun “its” and the personal pronoun “it” in reference to the masculine gender, thereby downplaying the importance of this sex that is assumed to be the root cause of woman’s woes. Like French feminist writer, Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex, 1953) Lamnyam insinuates that a woman is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.
Lamnyam’s book of poems is a tribute to penmanship. She contends that poets are not dead wood, and attributes much leverage to the weight of her pen: “You look so little/ But you are so great/You seem so fragile/ But you are so strong” (16). This poem could be re-christened “barrel of the pen,” given the hyperbolic epithets the poet uses to qualify her pen: “Fragile little Queen/Strong great king/ Queen for determination/ King for success” (16). In another poem, titled “I’ll Write a Poem” Lamnyam meditates on the concept of divinity: “I’ll write a poem/about God and His wonders/ About His love for mankind…/ I will write a poem about me/ and my life…/ why I believe there is a God” (3). Suffice it to say that this poet uses her poetic verve as a medium for musing on ontological questions, not least of which is man’s relationship with God. Some of the poems enable the reader to ponder the vagaries of life as seen in “Free Thinking”: “It’s interesting the myriad natural trend of events which matter to different people” (4).
It is impossible to read Lamnyam’s poetry without being struck by the poet’s exquisite diction. For good reason, she resorts to oxymoronic titles in a bid to underscore a point. In “Words of silence,” for instance, she reiterates the fact that life is an attitude: “Your actions tell who you are/ Words might belie your genuine self/My recipe is words-action blended” (5). Lamnyam puts oxymorons to effective use throughout the anthology as this example suggests: “Soft when hard and hard when soft” (49).Other tropes exploited by the poet include metaphors. She chooses metaphorical expressions to make the abstract seem concrete as seen in the following excerpt: “Life a gradual metamorphosis/Life a natural sol-fa” (39). Notice the alliteration produced when words like “gradual” and “natural” are articulated in the excerpt above. Metaphorical constructions such as “She made a gracious gesture and/ Put on an iron melting smile” (28) create striking images in the mind of the reader. Lamnyam’s arsenal of idiomatic expressions includes similes. This figure of speech enables her to create visual correlations between antithetical entities:”Alone the man was like cold water/Lonely the woman was like the hot sun” (38).
My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth is the poet’s musings on the fatality of humans. There is no gainsaying the fact that the poet subscribes to the Christian belief that man was created from dust and unto dust he will return: “Death/ A period of certainty”(48). Man’s demise is of such grave importance that the poet devotes an entire poem to the concept of mortality. In “Death” Lamnyam looks death in the face and chides it for being a terminator of terminators: “Cold blood murderer/Separator of lovers” (48).Last by not least, the title poem of this book “My Husband is a Cuckoo” (18) is weighty in the sense that it is an interrogation on the place of women in matrimony. Lamnyam seems to have the conviction that women are made to play second fiddle in marriages today: “For me and my species/Forever we remain mother cuckoos” (19).
Read through this prism, the title poem would be considered a pun of sorts, the more so because it is the female and not the male that is taken for granted in the matrimonial set-up. Like Simone de Beauvoir, Lamnyam seems to argue that marriage has always meant different things to the different parties involved. Man and woman need to relate to each other, but this does not presuppose affectionate reciprocity between them; women have never constituted a caste making exchanges and contracts with the male caste on equal footing. A man is socially an independent and complete individual. The poet seems to contend that the reproductive and domestic roles to which woman is confined do not guaranteed her an equal dignity. Thus, the title poem actually makes a mockery of the whole hype on gender equality.
In a nutshell, My Husband is a Cuckoo and Other Poems of My Youth reveals the multiple faces of Lanmyam as a creative writer. To gain a deeper insight into the musings of this talented poet who describes herself as consultant, coach, speaker, writer, iridologist and healer, a meticulous reading of this enrich collection of poems is strongly recommended.
About the Reviewer
Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta is professor of Modern Literatures at the United States Defense Language Institute, California
Posted by Wuteh on Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 08:45 PM in 2011 Presidential Election, Aloysius Agendia, AYAH Paul ABINE, Bill F. Ndi, Books, Canute Tangwa, Christmas Ebini, Diaspora News, Emil I Mondoa, MD, Emmanuel Konde, George Esunge Fominyen, Guest Bloggers, Guest Commentary, Harry Yemti, Henry Monono, Hope Kale Ewusi, Innocent Chia, Joseph Ndifor, Joyce Ashuntantang, Kangsen Feka Wakai, Louis Egbe Mbua, Martin Jumbam, Mbuli Rene, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Orock Eta, Peter Vakunta, Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk , Richard Moki Monono, Rosemary Ekosso, Stephen Neba-Fuh, The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man | Permalink | Comments (4)