Monday, February 20, 2012

Reunion with Koko Komegne, artist

Koko in the Doual'Art garden
In 1987, when I was living in Cameroon and practicing as an architect with my spouse, Epée Ellong, we were asked to rehabilitate the cafeteria of the University Center of Dschang in West Cameroon. It was a Soviet-style building, squat and chunky; the Soviets were not present in Cameroon any longer.
Epée Ellong redesigned the exterior to reflect the region's artistic heritage by creating African masks using marble residue.

I don't recall how we met Koko Komegne, but we heard that he was a talented painter. We commissioned him with painting frescoes in the cafeteria interior--which he did in record time. The eleven frescoes are based on a jazz theme--another of Koko's passions is music.

University Center of Dschang cafeteria






It had been years since I last saw Koko Komegne. Fortunately a few years ago I read about him online. He is still living in Douala, and I obtained his cell phone number. (In Cameroon, most people now use cell phones rather than land lines, as it is very difficult to obtain a land line and if the invoice is outrageous, there is nothing to do but be cut off.)
I called him and we made an appointment to meet at the cultural center, Doual'Art, in Bonanjoh, near the historical Pagoda building.
A Koko Komegne painting in our NY apartment

Although the life of an artist is often difficult all over the world, and Koko's is no different, he has been keeping busy these past years. Among other events, in 2006, the French Cultural Center commissioned a book about Koko's work, with articles by a variety of authors. (Unfortunately, the book is out of print.) He also recently designed a statue for a Douala roundabout.

More about Koko's life and work can be found on Wikipedia.


Koko and other Cameroonian intellectuals: Lionel Manga,  Ntone Edjabe, and  Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Espace Doual'art