The collection of poems and short stories titled Hiraeth Erzolirzoli and subtitled “Wales-Cameroon Anthology” was published by Hafan Books in 2018. From the outset, was raises the novice reader’s attention is the difficulty faced in pronouncing the book’s title, “Hiraeth Erzolirzoli”. And unusual as it might seem, it is added to the pairing and “Wales-Cameroon”. This pairing is a first problematic that triggers the reader’s envy to quest for the possible meaning of the anthology. Let’s therefore question some pertinent elements constitutive to this meaning.
by Michel Dongmo Evina
A general observation of the cover page enables the reader to identify the aforementioned title, printed in a bold red, the same red that appears on both the Cameroonian and the Welsh flags, and the subtitle in a bold black. This observation conveys to the reader the general impression of a mixture of harshness and softness. Harshness due to the imposing stature of the Mount Fako, “the Chariot of gods” as Portuguese explorers named it, which dresses the background of the cover page, added to the colour of the title, symbol of passion, blood, and even the flamboyant red of the lava that emerges from the mountain on the peak of an eruption. On the other side, the softness is marked by some beautiful pieces of welsh daffodils that occupy just a meagre section of the bottom-page. Does that imply that the anthology will only develop themes such as violence, sufferance, disturbance?
In an attempt to define these
unusual concepts that constitute the title, Eric Ngalle (2018:20), states that “Erzolirzoli, like Hiraeth describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.” Moreover, he adds that “Erzolirzoli is an integral part of exile, when someone dies, those left behind suffer extreme erzolirzoli as it carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return”.
This therefore gives a clue of the content we should expect in the collection: a written materialisation of authors’ griefs and melancholy in their respective milieu.s So, two major movements emerge from the collection. The first is on the different causes and manifestations of the sorrow, and the second dwells on the different ways out of it.
causes of melancholy
They are plethoric in the collection, we’ll focus on the most effective.
The anglophone crisis stands as a major source of grief for the poets, mostly the Cameroonians ones. This severe phase of our evolution as a Nation is subtly portrayed by them. Douglas Achingale in “Lost Happiness” gives an account of the sufferance endured by the people due to the war, since they can’t sleep nor eat anymore. Joyce Ashuntantang wants to be the voice of the voiceless in carrying “A Message from Buea-Bamenda-Mamfe”.
Second in this range is the monotony of the native land. “The very slaves of Tole” enables Kange Ernest to deplore the sufferance endured by the workers of Tole Tea Company who pay with their sweat and blood to the profit of their bosses. In “Rough Guide”, Grahame Davis portrays the theme of marginalisation and auto-marginalisation of the poet in every side of the world he visits. He compares himself to some minority ethnic groups (Cajun, Navaho, Palestinian) to show that everywhere he goes, he belongs to the margin. Moreover, in “One Day in Kampala – The Street Boy”, he presents the daily life of street boys, striving, through perilous means, to earn a living in the city of Kampala.
Solutions to the poets’ griefs
Fortunately, the horizon is not only a gloomy one, since there still are some ways out of the wantonness, some reasons to hope. The first that emerges from the collection is escapism which is observable through code mixing, narration of trips around the world and many other technics. In Douglas Achingale “I want to go”, escapism appears as an obligation to run away from the disastrous situation of the native land. “Cardiff 3.6.17” allows Grahame Davies to praise the advantages of togetherness, through the use code-mixing (from Italian, English to Spanish). With the actual growth of extremisms and nationalisms throughout Europe, football remains one of the last motives that can keep the flame of unity alive.
The recovery of one’s roots is also as a major source of appeasement of the poets’ souls. Adeola Dewis’s Route2Roots” talks about the journey back to Africa some Caribbean descendants of slaves undergo to recover their roots, their freedom and their authenticity. He praises native gods such as Ogun, Shango, Orisha Ifa, Ori, Jah”. This process also implies the use of our native languages such are pidgin and creole and the valorisation of our cultural practices such as “The Tekumbeng Parade” narrated by Prudentia Binwi Asobo in an eponym short story.
Finally, and despite all the sorrow portrayed, Hope for better days remains possible. In “Son of Prophecy”, Ifor ap Glyn foresees the advent of brighter days thanks to the election of President Obama. In praising this great figure of contemporary history, he gives a model to present and next generations.
“How a generation looking go see…?
A generation seeing go feel
Music, magic, beauty
Power, knowledge and
Journeys across seas
Between Wales and Cameroon, it takes a thousand miles and couples of hours, but thanks to the writers gathered in this anthology, we were enabled to join Buea to Cardiff through handful of pleasant poems and short stories.