Friday, December 21, 2007

Tale of an African Woman by Jing Thomas

Jing Thomas. Tale of an African Woman. Bamenda. Langaa Publishers. 332 pages. December 2007. Available on

The village of Yakiri has been cursed by ancestral wrath because of the treatment of Yaa, the first girl who wrestled her male goatherd peers to earn the right to be initiated into the society of manhood. Her struggle is taken up generations later by Yaya, the granddaughter of Tafan and Wirba.

Orphaned like her forebear, Yaya becomes a star student in the village's primary school and promises to go far. But, ask the villagers, is it right to invest in an education for an African girl who may become the property of another village? An educated woman will abandon the farm where she is needed, wear high heels and try to order men around!

In the midst of it all, one Irish missionary, living in Africa and for the most time with Africans, literally wiggles his way into hearts and minds. With his intervention, Yaya leaves the village to school in the city, but her troubles as a woman have not really begun.

Yarns of cultural borrowing, indigestion and transcendence reveal the simple and complex ways in which community matters are confronted and decided. This happens in shrines where seers are consulted and cowry shells thrown, in palm wine houses, but also around the school and presbytery. The untold stories and perspectives of girls and women burst through in illuminating and uplifting ways. Quarrels, squabbles, near collisions and mutual conversions give way to innovative traditions.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Namondo. Child of the Water Spirits by Ntemfac Ofege

Ntemfac A.N. Ofege. Namondo. Child of the Water Spirits. Bamenda, Langaa publishers. November 2007. Available from Michigan State University Press and

Chaos reigned in the firmament, until the ageless spirit Ovase Lova breathed and created dawn. Stars from his fingertips jewelled the heavens and newborn planets radiated throughout the vast universe. The river gods now dispatch Namondo, a liengu-la-mwanja or water spirit, to the land. The child of the water spirits, alongside her twin brother, has come to purge the land of an evil cult. Namondo uses her magic ring to accomplish her task, but disaster strikes. The fearsome ring of the water spirits must return to her son. Ntemfac Ofege weaves a tale combining yesterday and today, the living dead and the living, tradition and modernity, scoundrel and righteous deities.

This mythological narrative is rooted in that uproarious extravaganza called Africa – land of vicious serpents and elephant-doubles. Ripe with transfigurations and transformations, this novel promises to be a spirited and lingering read for all those who navigate multiple cultures, languages, times and geographies.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

John Ngong Kum Wins First EduArt Literature Award

The winner of the 2007 EduArt Awards for Cameroonian Literature written in English has been announced. John Ngong Kum is the winner of the highly contested Bate Besong Poetry Award (for poetry published in 2006) for his poetry collection Walls of Agony. According to Tanure Ojaide, renowned poet and Distinguished Professor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who headed the panel of judges,

“Ngong’s Walls of Agony is superior in its use of English and poetic language. It has consistency of imagery in the symbolic “wall” that permeates the poet’s vision of life, society, and politics as he explores personal and public concerns… Ngong also has a strong sense of form, which shows on the pages of his book. Most of the poems are in regular stanza and that gives the impression of organization and good craftsmanship. There is a sense of evenness in his work. As they stand, Ngong’s Walls of Agony is the best in language, unified vision, and form. He deserves the poetry prize.”

Prof. Ojaide also commended the runners up, Mathew Takwi for his collection On their Knees and Kamara Kimvala’s (A. F. Ndangam) Tears of Rage and described both volumes as exuberant.

The award ceremony will take place early in 2008 in Cameroon at which time the 2009 EduArt awards will be launched. The cash award for the winner originally advertised as 200.000 Francs CFA has been increased to 500.000 Francs CFA. The winner and runners up will all receive recognition plaques.

It should be noted that the Rufus & Jane Blanshard Award for Fiction had no winner this year because there were no entries for fiction published in Cameroon for 2006. The Victor E. Musinga Drama Award also received no winner because only one entry was submitted and this did not make for a credible competition. To allow for more entries, the EduArt Awards for Literature will now be held bi-annually. They will include a category for finished but unpublished manuscripts, and an award for the best Anglophone Cameroon literary text published in the Diaspora irrespective of genre.

EduArt Inc, a non profit organization founded by Dr. Joyce Ashuntantang, launched this competition earlier this year for works written in English by Cameroonians and published in 2006 in Cameroon or anywhere in Africa. Dr. Ashuntantang hopes that the Bate Besong award for poetry will not only keep the late poet-playwright’s name alive, but that the EduArt awards in general will encourage the production of more creative writing by Anglophone Cameroonians while boosting publishing in Cameroon as well.

To learn more about the awards and EduArt Inc, visit or email

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Profile: Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi AKA "Makuchi"

Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi was born and raised in Cameroon. She was educated at the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She uses the pen name Makuchi, and is also literary critic. She is currently a professor of English at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. She is the author of Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference and a book of short stories Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon. Her fiction has appeared in Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters, The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad, Crab Orchard Review, Thamyris, Worldview and Asian Women. Her many scholarly publications include book chapters, articles, and essays in journals. Her work has been reprinted in such anthologies as The Anchor Book of Modern African Stories, Canadian Woman Studies: An Introductory Reader and African Gender Studies: A Reader.

The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba by Makuchi

Makuchi. The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba. Ohio University Press. (January 1, 2008), 176 pages

Book Description
The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba offers readers a selection of folktales infused with riddles, proverbs, songs, myths, and legends, using various narrative techniques that capture the vibrancy of Beba oral traditions. Makuchi retells the stories that she heard at home when she was growing up in her nativeCameroon.The collection of thirty-three folktales of the Beba showcases a wide variety of stories that capture the richness and complexities of an agrarian society’s oral literature and traditions. Revenge, greed, and deception are among the themes that frame the story lines in both new and familiar ways.

In the title story, a poor man finds himself elevated to king. The condition for his continued success is that he not open the sacred door. This tale of temptation, similar to the story of Pandora’s box, concludes with the question, “What would you have done?”Makuchi relates the stories her mother told her so that readers can make connectionsbetween African and North American oral narrative traditions. These tales reinforce the commonalities of our human experiences without discounting our differences.

About the Author
Makuchi is a professor of English at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Her publications include a book of short fiction, Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon, and Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What God Has Put Asunder by Victor Epie Ngome

Ngome, V.E. (1992), What God Has Put Asunder. Yaounde: Pitcher Books. Ltd.

We will begin our analysis of the Cameroonian plays with Victor Epie Ngome’s What God Has Put Asunder. At a literal level, it is the story of Weka, a child brought up in an orphanage under Rev. Gordon and Sister Sabeth. When Weka reaches nubile age, two suitors ask her hand in marriage: one of them is Mr. Miche Garba, and the other Mr. Emeka who grew up in the orphanage together with Weka. Despite Emeka’s solid claims over Weka as a childhood friend, Mr. Garba has his way, but Weka accepts him reluctantly. Their marriage is solemnised by Rev. Unor, probationally, without the matrimonial rings.

The couple will live together and study each other for ten years at the end of which period if they still desire to be husband and wife, then the official ceremonies of the wedding will be conducted. But during the probational period Weka discovers that Miche Garba is no good. He maltreats and neglects her. He exploits the rich cocoa farms left by her father and squanders the money on his concubines. He does not tolerate Weka’s questioning attitude.

When she can no longer stand Garba, Weka escapes with her children back to her father’s compound to rebuild his dilapidated house and their shattered lives. Garba pursues her there threatening to forcefully take them back to his house. Once more the matter is brought to the court to take a decision on. And the court’s decision is that the couple will live in physical separation although united in a ‘simulated wedlock’, and that the marriage remains subject to the confirmation by husband and wife only, to the exclusion of any other parties; that the marriage will become null and void once any of the two parties objects to it; that until the confirmation is carried out under the supervision of the court, the couple will continue to live under physical separation but to show decency and decorum towards each other in order to avoid an unfortunate intervention by the court.

Here is part of the court’s declaration: And finally, given that, the final confirmation of the marriage following the compatibility test, voices other than that of the concerned party were enlisted, and that these voices influenced the outcome of the consultation; the court decides as follows: One, that the marriage remains subject to confirmation between husband and wife — on a one-to-one basis , and to the total exclusion of all other parties. It shall become void once any one of the two partied concerned objects thereto. (Ngome: 1992 58)

The main theme emerging from the play is the incompability of the couple Garba and Weka. Theirs is an uneasy union: at best it is a precarious marriage; at worst, an unworkable one. Weka cannot put up with Garba’s philosophy and philandering life style. The other theme is economic exploitation. Garba seems to have married Weka largely out of economic interest. For he takes over and exploits the cocoa farms left by Weka’s father, deriving enormous wealth from them without ploughing back some of the profit to develop the farms. At another level of economic exploitation, we find Garba feeding fat on the wealth of the cooperative society, the wealth of the nation. He is the unconscionable General Director of the Cooperative Society. With cheques to this or that girl, with mounting hotel bills to settle in support of his sensual lifestyle, Garba dips his hands into the cooperative funds with reckless abandon, eventually draining them dry of cash.

But within the Cameroonian context the play and its themes have a greater symbolic significance. For instance, the marriage metaphor relates to the political union of Anglophone Cameroon and its Francophone counterpart. Hence, Weka stands for the former Southern Cameroons, and Garba for La République du Cameroun. Weka’s parents represent the British government that relinquished responsibility over Southern Cameroons; Rev. Geodon and the orphanage stand for the U.N. trusteeship mandate over Southern Cameroons; the Louis mentioned in the play is France; Emerka is Nigeria, etc. Garba’s neglectful but exploitative attitude towards Weka represents the attitude of the Francophone leadership towards Anglophones in present day Cameroon, a behaviour that has come to represent the central grievance in what Anglophone Cameroonians have identified as the “Anglophone Problem in Cameroon.”

Now if one transfers the literal themes discussed above to the symbolic level, they will constitute an important aspect of the Anglophone problem. The ultimate social relevance of What God Has Put Asunder to the Anglophone Cameroonian community lies in the fact it has contributed in no small way to the overall education of the Anglophones. Of course, it may be too much of a claim to suggest that the present state of the critical consciousness of the Anglophone Cameroonians is the work of a single play alone. The play is only one part, albeit an important part, of a large process that came in with the limited freedom of the press.

Culled from Cameroonian and Kenyan Writers in Politics by Shadrach A. AMBANASOM