Sunday, May 16, 2010

Talented artistic Cameroonian friends

When we were living in Cameroon, we often worked with people from the family circle and the neighborhood, but at other times, we also had the pleasure of collaborating with talented people we met by coincidence. 
As architects, we worked on a variety of projects. One of them was the renovation of a university restaurant in West Cameroon, in the Grassland region.  
The original building was from the Soviet-era, in a rather "squarish" architectural style. My spouse was able to "Africanize" it by adding mosaic panels on the exterior walls. 
As for the inside, there were large empty walls, so we suggested that a modern artist come and decorate them with frescoes. We thought of Koko Komegne, whom we had met a short time before; he assured us that large-scale frescoes would not pose a problem.
As it turned out--we didn't know this before Koko won the bid--Koko is from the same area the building was located in, so he was especially invested in doing something memorable. And a wonderful job he did--several large-scale frescoes were completed in just 2 weeks! He used his favorite theme: music and jazz.
After that job, which he successfully completed in a short time, Koko started calling me "Maman" (Mom). This may seem strange to a Westerner, but in Cameroon, it was meant as a sign of affection.
I acquired a couple of Koko's paintings myself; his work is joyful, and I still have them. 

The second artist we worked with is Tjap Oum. At first, his business, as he was a trained building technician, was  a small contracting company; he borrowed a small space from our office, and we saw each other every day. However, he had a very interesting voice, in a bit of a Louis Armstrong style. After a couple of years, he launched a singing career, under the name of Tjap's, which went well--he has become a household name in Cameroon. He is currently residing in France, at last news. He usually sings in his native language, Bassa. I found this song online: "Tamboura." It seems to be rather recent--his voice has somewhat changed in all these years, it is hoarser. This is a photo of one of his older CDs, Kunde.

N.B. On another musical note: down memory lane: the 2010 World Soccer Cup song (Shakira) samples Zangelewa, which was incredibly popular about 20 years ago! 


2011: Unfortunately, in the meantime, Tjap has passed away, far too young.