Thursday, February 11, 2016

Barbecuexpo - Cameroon-style art gathering

Contemporary visual art is not only to be found in the upper scale neighborhoods of Douala. Désiré Pemeyeke, alias Mboko Lagriffe, recently held an art gathering in an out of the way neighborhood – in fact, so out of the way that we got lost trying to find it, and I was with a person who knows Douala’s meandering streets by heart. The gathering is named Barbecuexpo: no wine and cheese for Cameroonians! Grilled fish was the featured attraction. 

Eugénie, the smoothie expert
The setting was humble – a courtyard with a dirt floor – but one large wall was covered with the creations of several local artists, including the host himself; and an assortment of fabric bags, mugs, clothing, a table made with old tires, and sandals; packaged hot sauce, and a fruit smoothie stand held by a young lady named Eugénie. Mind you, this is not a country where there are a lot of smoothies, even less with beet juice included!
Despite the distance from “Main Street, Douala” – not that we have a Main Street, with about 4 million inhabitants – there was a diverse mix of guests, including a contingent of American teachers from the American School.

It was a very pleasant afternoon, and there were some wonderful inexpensive gift items for around $20; paintings/collages were sold at the price of 150000 FCFA (less than $300) each. 
In case you wish to order something – you can reach Mboko Lagriffe at  (And no, I don’t get a percentage of sales!)

The featured artists were:
From Douala: Maurice Tchinda, Stephane Eloundou, Fa'a, T William, Samaïl Nuemsi, Ginette Daleu. 
Ginette Daleu
From Buéa: Nassako, Max Lyonga, Christian Penn Tang, Boris Peter Kopala, Samuel Njomke. 
Artisans: ModAfric, Chanceline Design.

Table and sandals created by Christian Penn Tang.
Below photos of some of the art and gift items. 
Collage by Ginette Daleu, 2011 
Painting/collage by Mboko Lagriffe
Painting by Maurice Tchinda
Mixed media - Christian Penn Tang
Table made with recycled tires - and sandals (separate)
by Christian Penn Tang
Mixed media - Stéphane Eloundou
Mboko Lagriffe in his atelier
The book De La Case A La Villa
was also presented at the event.
In fact, even the grilled fish was artistic, served with plantains, "bobolo" and special sauce.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

West Cameroon - festive traditional dress

Women dancing in celebration, wearing matching "kabas"
The neighborhood chief
speaking to the community
In December, I was invited to a weekend of festivities in Bamendjou, West Cameroon. The occasion was the honoring of my friend, Jeanne Ntopa, to the title of Mafeu. This title appears to have been the title for the Queen Mother, but as I understood it, can now be given to women who have done much good to their community and thus are elevated to Queen Mother status.
Among the Bamileke from the region called the Grasslands by the German colonialists, there are many (related) languages. Thus the language spoken in Bamendjou is only barely understood by our Mafeu's own spouse, who is from the Dschang area. I understood nothing at all on the first day; however, I could sense the joy and pride during the Mafeu's neighborhood community celebration.
On the second day, the Bamendjou traditional chief, in this title since over 60 years, spoke in French as he acknowledged the fact that there
The Mafeu with to her left, the Bamendjou Chief.
were several visitors from other areas - whether next door Dschang, or far away United States, via Douala! He is an especially fascinating person, as he speaks perfect cultured French, but I was informed that he had not attended formal school and is self-taught.
Beyond the wonderful traditional architecture, I was fascinated by the array of colorful outfits worn by both men and women. Below an assortment...


The Bamendjou Chief's personal assistant

At the Bamendjou Museum
Indigo outfit - including the bracelets.
One of the older members of the female royal group
Indigo and beads outfit
Even during a traditional event,
we still need to keep in touch!
The kaba, originally brought by Christian
missionaries to Douala, is now worn all over Cameroon.
The "Prince consort"... Bernard Ntopa
Bamendjou queens with a guest, in front of the palace.