He goes by the name PenBoy, but his works are far from what a boy would produce. Young and talented, he uses poetry and spoken word to express his views on the social and political issues affecting Cameroon, especially the Anglophone crisis.
PenBoy whose real name is Alemnge T Boris has been writing and performing for a while now. But his works started gaining more traction when he lent his voice to the armed conflict in the North West and South West regions – the Anglophone crisis.
PenBoy says he started honing his skills as a spoken word poet in 2018 while completing his Bachelor’s degree program in law. “Reading law made me realize that I didn’t actually want to be a lawyer but rather I loved the how idea behind being a lawyer which is advocacy,” he explains.
In addition to this, he often shares the stage with fellow artists, addressing different aspects of societal life. Through this and other experiences, Pen Boy has developed his own style and voice, rhyme and rhythm to create powerful and captivating pieces. He is not just an entertainer but also an activist and a peacemaker. He uses his poetry as a tool for raising awareness and consciousness, for challenging stereotypes and prejudices, and for promoting dialogue and understanding. He says his goal is to empower his generation to speak up and act for positive change in Cameroon.
One of his most popular poems include ‘travelers’ which tackles the vice of hate speech, a seed of discord eating deep into Cameroonian communities, and spurring a spiral of injustice, violence, and an identity crisis.
And this is just one piece from the puzzle. Pen Boy is set to release a larger body of work – his first ever spoken word album. Titled Natives of the Universe, it features 13 tracks. The body of work features eleven other creative including rappers and fellow spoken word poets.
PenBoy is one of the rising stars of the Anglophone spoken word scene in Cameroon which has flourished in recent years despite the ongoing crisis. He is part of a new wave of artists who are using their creativity and courage to express their aspirations and frustrations, to challenge the status quo and demand accountability, while offering hope and solutions.
“I’m not a religious person but there’s a riot in my soul every time I see a people being deprived of rights, when I see people unable to afford basic needs because someone somewhere is sitting on their opportunities,” he says. “There’s a little voice inside of me which keeps telling me that I was designed for this purpose. I’ve no clarify yet, I’m not even sure of when I’m heading to but I know I’m on track. I feel it.”
PenBoy will be performing at Science Slam, a spoken word event at the Goethe Institut in Yaounde, tomorrow (April 26). There, he will rightfully claim his place as one of Cameroon’s most consistent and remarkable in the art, alongside the likes of versatile artist, Lydol.
When he mounts the stage, he will not just be seen as another artist or poet seeking to thrill fans. Beyond that, he is a mark of resilience and courage in the face of a system that discourages artists from speaking for social and political causes. He is a product of the Anglophone experience, one of marginalization and dissent for always having to speak loud to be heard.
This realization, he explains, inspired and gave him a sense of purpose: “I transferred my love for advocacy into my writings but being the kind of leader I’ve always aspired to become, I knew it wasn’t just enough to write, I need to speak! I needed to be seen, I needed to be held. This is where the boldness came from because I knew at the end of the day, someone had to do the undone and I don’t know why till date, I keep feeling like it has to be me.”
But even with this, he understands how hard it is to soar given his background as an Anglophone in a polarized country like Cameroon. With every new step he takes, this realization becomes more evident and its consequences, more present in his life.
“Being an Anglophone never use to really mean anything to me but with my little exposure, I honestly sometimes feel like a second class citizen. A lot of experiences I’ve had … opened my eyes to the realization,” he states. And still, he believes change will come. “Good will and good faith can sort this out.”
PenBoy is a spoken word artist who deserves more attention and recognition for his work. He is not only a poet, but also a voice of his generation, a voice of his people, a voice of his country. He is a voice that speaks truth to power.
Catch him performing at the Goeth Institut in Yaounde his Wednesday, April 26, 2023.