- Theodore Kanjo, Open Dreams Scholar
The Cameroon the rest of the world does not see
Cameroon is a small nation located in the “armpit of Africa” as I like to describe it. I come from a small ethnic group within this nation and I consider her as my Cameroon. It is called the Ndu Sub-Division in Donga-Mantung Division in the NW Region of Cameroon with land surface area of 4300 square kilometers. We call ourselves, “Wimbum” and we speak the “Limbum” dialect. The history of this language has a lot of influence on the present behavior of its inhabitants as it can be seen from their togetherness especially when certain traditional allegiances are concerned. Inhabitants gradually move to the nearby towns in search of greener pastures, being ignorant of the untapped resources the land has. Our major activity is farming and we are known for our produce like tea, corn, beans and groundnut. Our traditional meal is huckleberry and fufu, commonly called “fufu corn and njama-njama”. In every social gathering, this meal is always prepared. This meal has been adopted by other clans within the country. Our culture is practised across Cameroon, especially through social gatherings called “Njangi”. We mostly drink palm wine and corn beer and eat “fufu corn" and "njama-njama”. No one is allowed into the Njangi hall with slippers on, but shoes. In the room, handshakes are not allowed (I don’t know why). The salient purpose of the meeting is to save money, discuss about previous week activities and solve social problems. During the occasions, the elders come forth to showcase their unique dance moves. They use gongs, xylophones, flutes and other musical instruments. Although I do not understand the story my traditional dance tells, getting the songs and watching the elders dance, excites me and prods one to join in the action.
Ndu is a land with creative young minds who, in most cases, lack the proper education to foster this creativity. Having better educational facilities will help the youth channel their creativity into solving global problems. For instance, we had no electricity in the village when I was growing up in the village and we depended on lamps as the chief source of light. Often, access to kerosene was like looking for a black hat in a dark room. My friends and I found a way to tackle this problem. We contributed the little money we had to buy small light bulbs, cables and batteries. We built a circuit that transformed chemical energy in the batteries to light energy from the bulbs, although we had no prior education. In addition, I made my first wooden bicycle with no brakes (we used our slippers as brakes, sliding with our feet on the ground) and pedals. I could only descend hills. It was dangerous, but I learned from my wounds. Moreover, while other kids around the world were playing with Legos, we built our Legos (mostly cars) out of bamboo and played with it. The stems of the corn plant is rich in sugar and we used our toys as trucks to carry the little we harvested back home to dwell on it, since we were kids and we were addicted to sugar. Furthermore, we have had a common history with shared values and a common destiny. Sunday was a day for us to get the glimmer of a television. My uncle was a palm wine tapper and he sold at his mini bar every Sunday. He also owned a generator which only went operational on Sundays. It was the only day in the week when we witnessed magic (television). The first time I witnessed magic, the screen was white and blurry accompanied by noise. I did not know that channels existed, so I tried to form motion images in my mind. Sunday was a day when we expressed our togetherness and dance skills since my uncle played music in the bar which we danced to. We loved to dance, but following the rhythm was a problem. The “vibrating legs” were ubiquitous to us.
In Cameroon, we let things happen naturally, in the positive sense. In the West, there are roller coasters for fun while in Cameroon, we have bumpy roads which still give that fun-scary feeling same as the aforementioned (although I have never been on a rollercoaster) plus it gives us an opportunity to dance unwillingly in the car (hypothetically). As funny as it sounds, anyone reading this may not echo the same sentiment that it is a good thing.
When others see Cameroon as corrupt, poor and in war, I see it as a place for investment. I see a land full of virtuosos and protégés willing to be mentored so that they can bring change to the world. Here is food for thought; Cameroon needs your money to make you and the world richer, so think about investing in our young minds. “A single story makes one story the only story. A single story robs people of dignity, it emphasizes on how we are different and not how we are similar. When we realize that there is never a single side to a story about a place, we regain a kind of paradise” says Chimamanda Adichie. Different perspectives improve performance.