In a country as ethnically and culturally diverse as Cameroon, it comes as no surprise that the literature that has emerged from it be equally varied and multifaceted—addressing a range of social and cultural issues, from women’s rights and feminism to post-war and post-colonial identity. We speak to Cameroonian Writer Eric Charles Ngalle on writing and some of the Cameroonian authors who have influenced his journey as a writer.
Cameroonian Writer Eric Charles Ngalle
We searched garbage bins for a dogs bone Tears, glued on our faces like old postage stamps Feasting on expired tin beans hiding behind library walls for a kiss, maybe two The cold-soaked our nakedness And when at night We did not hear the owl cry, In silence, we wept. We had sisters, Ndinge, Esther, Enanga We lost them all. O Lord, why did our heroines go? They left us cold. The night sucks our nudity. ENC
The first time I met a writer in Cameroon, I was in upper sixth in government Bilingual Grammar School Molyko, Buea, 1995. I was preparing for the Advanced Level Certificate. The whole class had anticipated the coming of Late, Great Mr Bate Bisong (1954-2007). When the great man walked into our course, you could hear the silence. For two hours, the great man sat quietly like a great eagle selecting preys according to their strengths and sizes. We waited in anticipation for the great man to speak. Our hearts stopped. As the bell rang, as the lesson period ended, just before he left, Mr Bate Bisong focussed his attention on one girl who was sitting at the front of the class. He said:
‘When I look at you, I think of a fish.’
Giants of Nigerian Literature
If that was the great man’s way of introducing us to poetry and creative writing, it had the opposite effect. Poetry became something mysterious; we knew we would never be as good as the great man. I noticed this elitism again in 2017 when I travelled to Cameroon. Amongst the small group of writers, I met in a little corner of Yaoundé. Some wanted to tell me that they were great writers, instead of showing me what they had written. They spent their time quoting the Giants of Nigerian Literature, from Ola Rotimi to Pa Chinua Achebe. I tolerated this attitude.
After all, I had been away from my country Cameroon for almost twenty years. I needed someone to show me the ropes. I had made my name as a writer in Wales. However, I needed to reacquaint myself with the writers on the grounds where my placenta cord lies. I had edited and published many poetry anthologies, short stories, and articles across several magazines.
In 2017, I received the highest award given to an individual artist by the Arts Council of Wales. https://www.literaturewales.org/lw-news/10063/. While in Cameroon, I met one of the ‘Njorku’ of modern Cameroonian writing. Mr Douglas Achingale popularly known amongst his friends as Lord Havoc. Author of ‘BEFORE I DIE.’ And ‘THE WRONG DECISION.’ I met other writers in Cameroon. However, their writings are symptomatic of the literary decapitation and fragmentations Cameroon has suffered from the WAJELI (Those who came). Why would you write a beautiful poem and spoil it with something like: ‘In the book of Ezekiel 2:6. The Lord Said.’ Frankly, no one gives a toss about what the Lord said to Ezekiel and his verses.
Professor Joyce Ashuntantang
Without a doubt, I have a slight bias for the professor and rightly so. Her love for languages and the diversity of cultures in Cameroon is one that feeds my creativity. More importantly, we have experienced the Rains and Daffodils of Wales. I love how Professor Joyce spreads her work globally. A Literary ambassador.
Then, you have Sir Dibussi Tande. I came across the chief’s work when I was looking up Cameroonian writers. It was a great honour when Mola contributed to the Wales Cameroon anthology.
In terms of those who have returned into the spirit world to join the ancestors, we have the great Bate Bisong and Late Mbella Sone Dipoko.
Today, we have highlights including Mr George Ngwane, Sage Victor Epie Ngome, Professor Mauchi, Mr Efange Esuka, Nsah Mala http://www.africanbookscollective.com/authors-editors/nsah-mala, Nnane Ntube https://spearsmedia.com/team/nnane-ntube/
MD Mbutoh. I met an excellent young writer who is also part of http://assoclijec.e-monsite.com/en/news/clijec-in-brief/ Mr Raoul Djimeli. He is one to watch for the future. He loves literature for literature sake. Raoul stands tall as that bridge uniting Cameroonian writers. Iggy Mizuh, Ekpe Inyang, young Colins Tometi.
Again, I went for these writers because I am familiar with their works. I highly recommend the latest anthology of Cameroonian poetry ‘BEARING WITNESS.’ https://spearsmedia.com/shop/bearing-witness/ edited by Professor Joyce Ashuntantang and sir Dibussi Tande. This book holds both the future, present and past of Cameroonian writing.
We have trained to become parrots Raising pieces of clothes in the name of flags Singing nursery rhymes As National anthems On the day the porcupine dies We would dress in sackcloth Stand by market gates Cry like orphans. ENC
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