When it comes to creativity and art, Cameroon has a lot of potential. Over the years, Cameroonian names like Bole Butake, John Nkemngong have become household names in the mouths of most students. However, they are just a part of the very few creatives in Cameroon whose works have made it to lime light. What could be the problem? Why are there so many talented Cameroonians whose works never see the limelight? The panellists at the Access Point Africa(APA) Workshop23 (17th of June 2023) provides very practical answers to this pertinent question.
Participants and facilitators at APA Workshop23
The APA literary workshop had on its panel, the iconic and well applauded storyteller, Eric Ngale. During his session with the participants at the workshop, Eric stressed on the importance of including cultural elements into one’s art. To this iconic storyteller of Bakweri decent, the art of a creative should not be vague, it should “have life”. in other words, the art of a creative should pass across an intriguing message to the audience. This is what makes the work of a creative standout.
Eric Ngalle, photo credit; Evening Star.
This credibility of this theory put forth by Eric Ngale can be seen in his own works such his enticing, unique, and image filled autobiographical novel, “I Eric Ngale.”
Cover page of I Eric Ngalle.
To add flesh to Eric’s insistence on the role of culture in the work of a creative, the researcher and writer, Dr. Monique K. raised a very peculiar point. Using very simple examples like, the Cameroonian comedian, Aunty Feli, Dr. Monique explained that, while it is important for creatives to hold on to their culture, they should not use their art to channel a singular aspect of the culture. They should explore, exploit and incorporate aspects of their culture into their works. To illustrate this point, she used the narrative behind the Bayangi culture of always insisting that the corpse of their people should be buried in their land.
Dr. Monique K. Photo credits, Amazon.com
Before ending her presentation, on “Promoting Our Cultures In A Multicultural world,” Dr. Monique said that in order to succeed as a creative, “your art should manifest your culture, but you must first of all know your culture in order to be able to sell it.”
Our art should be able to tell a story, a story of who we are. But who are we? What are we as Africans? Dr. Gil Ndi, one of the pioneer founders of the Southern Cameroon Poetry Award says that, as a creative, it is your place to answer this question. In his words, “reinstate yourself by telling your story.” Also, to make one’s art standout, one should be intentional about creating (be it music, writing, dancing, acting…). For, it is only through intentionality that a creative can be able distinguish themselves from other creative.
Dr. Gil Ndi , photo credit: gilbertsang.com
Although a lot was said on creativity in Cameroon as a whole, the primary objective of this conference, was to train participants on how to tell African stories in African voices. However, in order to make sure that, these budding authors and poets do not “talk grammar and shiddon hungry,” A. Franklin of Zebra Comics publishing house came on board to talk about “Local Book Publishing and Book Promotion.” Through his years of experience as published writer and a publisher himself, he gave the participants a host of dos and don’ts in the publishing industry within and out of Cameroon.
Mr. Franklin A.
In between the various presentations by the different panellists, the managing Director of Access Point Africa, Mr. Mbutoh Divine consistently supplied participants with more insights on the different points sighted by the various panellists. He also encouraged the participants to be curious at all times, and don not take anything for its face value.
MD Mbutoh Divine
*Extra seasoning to APA Literary Workshop23
The event which was hosted at Open Dreams in Obili, Yaounde, was graced with the presence of the C.E.O of Open Dreams (www.opendreams.org) as well as a member of the U.S Embassy in Cameroon. For confidentiality purposes, we shall not be mentioning the name or post of the member from the U.S Embassy. This however, is what he said, “many people who fail to obtain visas to the United States of America due to poor communication skills.” He stressed on the need to learn how to tell our stories.