After the first day full of literary actives in the town of Dschang, Bafoussam and Foumban take over to lead the writers to the discovery of two cultural sites in the West region of Cameroon. The FESTAE is offering a unique occasion to emerging writers, to visit the den of Njoya’s creation, the source of his renowned wisdom, the place with so much praise, a city, Foumban with its beautiful palace !
What would have been a festival placed under Njoya’s figure without the pleasure of a journey taken to his homeland, to the heart of his grandeur?
The journey to Bafoussam is quiet and the atmosphere tensed with expectations and excitements. Outside, the sun is now appearing, casting its beams on a sunny day. We are all longing for this particular moment, when we meet with king Njoya’s lair. After a literature exchange with high school students in Bafoussam, a visit is paid to the King of Fusap palace (Bafoussam). The first excursion at the source of west Cameroonian realms offers a pure moment of connection with African originality. The palace architecture is unique and attractive. Its massive wall sustained with clay and bamboos, its conical tower show the Mightiness of royalty in west Cameroonian culture. The palace’s guide willingly acquaints us with the history of kingdom. The marvellous and the sad are mixed together to offer a fascinating account of the history of the different Kings of Fusap; those who never die but only get lost waiting to find the way home again.
The forty minutes journey to Foumban palace also makes it worth the while. The second excursion of the day brings us to the front yard of the Bamun palace. A unique occasion to admire one of the wonderful achievement of King Njoya: the palace. With its blended indigenous architecture, which combines that of the Afro-Islamic states like the Hausa and the Sudanese, the palace is an artistic masterpiece. It was first built by the Ncharé Yen the founder of the Kingdom. The restoration works initiated by King Ibrahim Njoya in 1987 gives the Foumban place its actual design, which is a personification of Njoay’s ability to blend African and western architectural forms. At the main entrance, we could admire the a ka u ku, the alphabet invented by king Njoya. A brief history of the most prominent rulers of the kingdom, writing on marble, in Shumun and translated into French and English describes Njoya as the Father of the modern era of the kingdom.
The front part of the palace’s yard offers a great view of the Bamoun craftsmanship and artistic realisations. Painting and sculptures showcasing the history of the Bamun Kingdom are all over. A warrior riding a horse at the centre of the palace, is the testimony of the kingdom warlike habits. Behind him is buried some dignitaries of the kingdom. A visit at the first floor of the palace (the Art room) displays another facet of the Bamun craftsmanship. The only flat to this cultural excursion at the heart of Njoya source of invention is the missed meeting with the actual ruler of the Bamun as he was granting an audience to another king in the West.
Foumban market place next to, the place is renowned for its colourfulness. As we crowd to the market, we get in touch with many cultural sites and expressions which constitute the kwon-how and identity of Bamoun Kingdom. The shops in the markets are, for the most, decorated with traditional Ndop clothes, beads, and masks of dances which often date the previous centuries. The market lies right in front of the mythical hanging tree and the huge “NKINDI” drum which both reflect the history of the Bamoun Kingdom.
As we are driving back to Bafoussam, we, the emerging writers, know we have walked through the threshold of African inventiveness. We are leaving the king’s lair with a change in morality, with a vision of our natural force of creation. Now we remember who we actually are. Now we know, we own no identity but the real African Identity we must reconcile with. And this in other to shape our writings and blend them with the scent of Africa subtlety and wisdom. Through the emblematic figure of King Njoya, we can easily initiate the “back to my root” journey.
The Second day ends in Bafoussam with an artistic spectacle held at the Espace TENGANG by Grimo, an emerging slam artist. Held in homage to Daniel Tongning, the event gathers many people; they have been waiting for us, while we were communing with Njoya in his homeland. And Grimo the passionate artist, with his forceful look and his mighty voice realised a shivering performance of the slam reading of Daniel Tongning selected books. The motherly voice of Karolyn Payong also accompanies the event in a spiritual harmony of poetic reading.
By NJIPENDI Daouda