Poems from Abakwa in Cameroon Pidgin English is the poet’s attempt at capturing in print the speech mannerisms of the proverbial man in the street in Cameroon. Pidgin English, also called Cameroonian Creole, is a lingua franca spoken throughout the national territory of Cameroon and beyond. Of the 200-odd languages that Cameroonians speak, only Pidgin enjoys the rare privilege of being spoken by people from all social strata and ethnic groups. Mbangwana (1983) lends credence to the importance of Pidgin English as a lingua franca in Cameroon as follows:"Pidgin English is very crucial as a communication bridge, for it links an Anglophone to a Francophone. It also links an Anglophone to another Anglophone, an educated Cameroonian to another educated one, a non-educated Cameroonian to another non-educated one, and more importantly an educated Cameroonian to a non-educated one"(87).
Ayafor (2005) recognizes the importance of Pidgin English in language planning in Cameroon when he underscores “the role of Pidgin English as a linguistic bridge between the two linguistic communities both in official and private domains” (128). He further notes that Pidgin English is not only the most widespread variety of English but it is the only language in Cameroon with the pragmatic ability to function as a contact language for all linguistic groups.
Pidgin has acquired the status of an independent language in Cameroon.It is no longer restricted to small talk, business and music; it is now the language of Anglophone Cameroonian literature. Francis Njamnjoh, Patrice Nganang, Mongo Beti, Peter Vakunta and Gabriel Fonkou to name but a few,tend to imbue their literary works with Pidgin English and Camfranglais, the language that Mercedes Fouda calls ‘le camerounais’(2001).These creative writers constantly resort to pidginization as a mode of linguistic and cultural appropriation.
This anthology is inspired by the poet’s desire to salvage a language that has been subjected to denigration on account of its being non-standardized.Pidgin English translates not only the worldview of Cameroonians but also their sensbilities and lived experiences.Well educated Cameroonians now resort to Pidgin English for the purpose of phatic communion in informal contexts. To put this differently, they use Pidgin in order to ensure group solidarity and to reinforce a sense of belonging.Although for a long time, Pidgin has survived as a lingo used mostly by the uneducated and semi-literate, this mixed language has now gained currency among the educated in Cameroon. It is important, I believe, to conceive of language mixing as an attempt to make language respond more realistically to the prevailing circumstances under which discourse takes place. Pidginization is no longer equated with imperfectly learned English. Pidgin English has become the mother tongue of children born to parents from different ethnic/linguistic backgrounds.
Poems from Abakwa in Cameroon Pidgin English is one patriotic rage. An anthology of sorts, this book of poems contains wisdom, inspirational reflections and witticisms for all. Through apt descriptions, ilustrations, dialogues, interrogations and incisive phraseology, Peter Wuteh Vakunta creates an effective balance of colorful images that traces and documents disturbing accounts and evidences of corruption, greed, skewed values and life experiences that have assaulted his fatherland, betrayed political leaders and institutions, court judges, and parliamentarians as the police-cum-military continue to put their ambitions above the country’s needs while forsaking future leaders—children. Vakunta describes how civil servants represent selfish interests and aspirations. Judges are intimidated as the nation’s laws continue to be transgressed. The police and military continue to abuse the trust invested in them by civilians and misdirect their patriotism while virtually the entire nation continues to live shaky lives with a punctured integrity. Vakunta does this in popular lingos commonly used by musicians, businessfolks, and the common man under several labels—Pidgin English, Camfranglais, Cam-tok, Camspeak, Majunga tok … [Dr. Fidelis Achenjang, Union College, USA]