Learning More about the Cameroonian Culture by Attending Cultural Festivals

January 8th, 2015 by | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Cameroon is a country that has rich and unique culture and traditions. Dancing and music is a huge part of Cameroonians’ lives, be it when they are at the clubs or gathering with their neighbors.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, my goal is to not only work collaboratively on projects with my community host partners, but also learn about their culture so that I can be well integrated into their community and educate my family and friends in the United States and other countries about how people in Cameroon truly live.  Thus, I asked my work supervisor if there were any special events happening during New Year’s Day in which I could participate.  He told me that his home village was going to be hosting cultural festivals and that his wife who also grew up in the same village could accompany me there.  I excitedly accepted the offer to go and was so grateful for them giving me the opportunity to participate in cultural events.

Last week, two days before New Year’s Day, with my work supervisor’s wife, Nicoline, and my counterpart, Ruth, I took an almost hour ride from Bamenda in two separate taxis to Kedjom Keku, a village nestled in the mountains where my work supervisor and his wife grew up and still have family members living there. The first taxi, which was packed with seven people total including the driver, took us to a village named Bambui where people go to transfer taxis to other villages.  Thus, we caught another taxi that was headed to Kedjom Keju.  The second taxi ride, which was in a sedan car, was very packed as it had 10 people total including three children and the driver.  A mother who was bringing three children had to put two of her children on strangers’ laps, which is a very common practice in Cameroon.  I missed the opportunity to hold a child in my lap because I had my motorcycle helmet on my lap.  Cameroonians are very touchy and communal people, meaning that they often give strangers a lot of trust and like to be friendly with everyone.  When traveling to villages, it’s not uncommon to encounter very packed taxi rides because there are not too many taxis heading to villages.

Once I arrived in Kedjom Keku, we immediately went to the village chief’s palace where the cultural festival was taking place.  The primary purpose of the cultural festivals which normally occur at the end of the year and beginning of the year is to bring all the residents of the village together and showcase their dances, music and costumes on the lawn of the village chief’s palace. They also hold these cultural festivals to teach the younger generations about the cultural rituals so that they can continue to follow the traditions as the years go by.  While a number of people stood and watched people danced on the beautiful sunny day, a significant number of people also danced.  They danced in a huge circle around a handful of people who played drums, recorders, and other musical instruments.  Many people wore beautiful traditional costumes, which were made of black fabric with bright colorful embroideries.  They are all custom-made by local artists.  People choose their own designs.  The event lasted for several hours.

I attended the cultural festival again yesterday with my work supervisor’s wife because I wanted to take every opportunity to soak in moments that I would not get to enjoy back home in the United States.

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Republished on Peace Corps Passport

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1 Comment

Auntie Estee

January 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm

I cannot express how much I enjoy reading your field notes and viewing your photos. You capture so intrinsically the culture & personalities of the people you come in contact with daily. Best of all, it makes each of us realize that there is a lot more that exists in the world than our own little space. Rock on!!
love,
auntie estee

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