Poetry, plays, spoken word…:
The Black sheep of Anglophone Cameroon’s 80/20 family!

It is no longer news that for years now, many a Cameroonian have subscribed to the ideology of promoting home-made cultural content. It is also no news that the movement has from its very origins, been divided over methods and assessing results.

While some believe a subtle, diplomatic and collaborative approach will do, another side feels brute force and self-imposition will do the trick. Needless to say, there also exists a faction that believes art is a universal language, and like the air we breathe, should not be limited to a country, origin or clime.

Of recent, the debate again resurfaced, rekindled by ‘Vitesse’ singer, Ambe’s observation and dismay with the level of consumption of Cameroonian music.

A careful observer however, would quickly pick out the unequal advocacy that has been ongoing for ages now. Music has always been the ‘enfant beni’ in the eyes of many, and movies, the next preferred option.

To artiste, Tino, the solution lies in stepping up quality of work in general. In his submission, he hinted that it would do the Cameroon music industry good if artistes stop trying to compare with their peers elsewhere and build solid reputations for themselves. “You will not be one of the greatest to ever do it. You can still leave your mark in a few thousand years,” he underscored.

But while the fight by the Anglophone entertainment industry ‘rescue’ its music and movies and give a voice to ours ensues, many appear to be turning a blind eye to other forms of art, sinking deep. Poetry, prose, spoken word, live plays are some of the other aspects of culture that appear to be neglected.

Stage play for instance, imparts the audience in a different way. The energy and mood are more evident to the audience. This is spiced by the desire to savour every second of the moment, making it all the more exhilarating.

Another aspect of live plays is that they give you the need to live in the moment. It is live and has to be consumed as such for maximum pleasure.

One second past that and the pleasure, the emotions, the punch begin to fade. This too accounts for why it is hard to put up an amazing live show and even some music artistes often resort too playbacks. With the 80/20 conversation back on the table once more, music and movies alone continue to steal the spotlight.

With the current conversation on enhancing Cameroonian entertainment content and spreading Anglophone culture in particular, few seem to be acknowledging the role played by the aforementioned art forms.

Rising from the ruins

After being ignored for a long time, a number of English speaking Cameroonian artists involved in these neglected art forms are changing the face of the game. The sector like many others, had been almost completely crushed by the Anglophone crisis. Against the odds, it rose slowly and steadily and today, struggles to rear its head from beneath.

The North West and South West regions are getting more live shows with each getting better by the day. A conversation of this nature would hardly be complete without the mention of Alemnge Boris, who goes by the moniker, PenBoy.

Anglophone performers are rising from the ruins

Mac Alunge, Nyangha Sandy, Motanni and Samson Vugar too, make the list, to name a few. You can’t ignore Dzekashu MacViban or Tchassa Kamga or the likes of Asafor Ndifor. These are new age artists fronting Anglophone culture and changing the narrative. They are enabling [Anglophone?] Cameroon regain its prestigious cultural position on the map.

These Anglophone acts are sailing the current tides with the help of the internet. They put up virtual performances, share poems and interact with their followers. On the internet there are no borders to cross or planes to catch. No complex visa processes and no ghost towns. This reeks of liberty and the ability to perform feats once deemed impossible.

Neglect or hidden growth?

For one, the lack of primary focus on the literary aspects of Anglophone culture and entertainment does not mean the sector is void of any progress. On the bright side, it is low-key rising and developing, breaking new barriers every day and resurrecting the once sinking voices of Anglophones.

As disappointing as the status quo had seemed, worsened by the internet cuts in the course of the Anglophone Crisis, it would actually turn out for the better. It is safe to argue that just like the setbacks, the growth in the sector is hard to measure too, owing to the rather docile nature of its actors.

Unlike music and movie acting areas, few have a say as to what obtains for Anglophone Cameroon’s poets, stage actors and spoken word artists. The characters themselves, are rarely seen throwing shots at each other, or teaching them what to do. The absence of awards strictly based on the different categories too, only makes the ‘noise’ less, and leaves the artists at relative peace with each other.

Units like the Ideal Theatre Troupe of the University of Buea, Griot Hub and La Liberte Arts Group have fanned the flames of raw creativity, putting up amazing shows week in, week out. Sessions between shows are also regular, as well as performances in other regions of the country. Even acts now hosted in the deepest parts of the Francophone regions feature Anglophone artistes and performers, pulling audiences.

Yet, we can’t help but go the Oliver Twist way. The task remains an uphill ride, especially with the lack of adequate physical and moral institutions to cater for certain vital needs.

Even the corporate world which is a huge promoter of culture in Cameroon, is yet to fall in love with literary art and theatre performances, or maybe the concerned actors have not knocked enough. It would also be fair to question state action, as a favourable environment and state of the art facilities provide leeway for growth.
Of course there never would be a point of completion and finity.

Even the great Leonardo Da Vinci acknowledged limits, citing art as an endless piece of work only abandoned. But again, what use is art if we can’t strive for perfection?

Giyo Ndzi

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