Art & Culture of Cameroon

With a population dating back to the Neolithic age, the culture of Cameroon as a nation justifiably age old and traditional. As archeological evidences and modern day statistics show, the Pygmies have influenced the culture in their own way till date. The Sao Culture of the Pygmies has been among the earliest. Before being formally recorded in history the African culture developed and flourished in this country. Inhabited by about 280 different ethnic groups with their own cultural form, the Cameroonian culture has become a melting pot of various African ethnic cultures. Music and dance are integral parts of the Cameroonian culture, the two most popular forms being makossa and bikutsi. Traditional art forms include working with wood, stones and clay and are used throughout the country for commercial, decorative and religious purposes. Although a part of the national budget have been kept reserved for cultural activities, most artists are self supporting. Largely influenced by Europe, Cameroonian literature and films have highlighted the national struggle for independence and also on the over all state of the continent at large.

Music:- Music and dance are integral parts of the Cameroonian culture. Almost all occasions and events are accompanied by music. Generally transmitted orally, the general accompaniments are claps or stomping feet. In traditional performances, there is a chorus baking up a soloist, accompanied by traditional instruments like bells, drums, talking drums, flutes, horns, rattles, scrapers, whistles, xylophones and stringed instruments all of which varies from one group to another. In certain cases performers sing by themselves only with a harp-like instrument.


Popular Music Styles are:

•  Makossa of the Douala: This form mixes folk music, highlife, soul and Congo music. The style was popularized in the 70's and 80's by Manu Dibango, Francis Bebey, Moni Bilé, and Petit-Pays, while in the mid 80's Makassi, a softer form was developed by Sam Fan Thomas

•  Bikutsi of the Ewondo: Originated as war music among the Ewondo, it was later developed into popular dance music by Anne-Marie Nzie in the 1940's. During the 70s, 80, and 90s it was made popular worldwide by artists like Mama Ohandja and Les Têtes Brulées .

•  Ambasse bey of the coast

•  Assiko of the Bassa

•  Mangambou of the Bangangte

•  Tsamassi of the Bamileke

Dance: Over 200 dance forms are found to have developed and thrived in Cameroon. In traditional dances men and women are separated and in some cases participation of any one of the sexes is strictly forbidden. These properly choreographed dances are performed for causes ranging from entertainment to events to religious devotion.

For forest hunter groups like Baka, Medzan and Kola, death is the most important ceremony and they believe that forest spirits participate in death ceremonies by dancing under a ruffia mask.

Arts and Craft: Traditional arts and craft are found to be prevalent all over the country for commercial, decorative and religious purposes. Woodcarvings, sculptures, pottery, bead working are prevalent supported by basket weaving, brass and bronze working, calabash carving and painting, embroidery, and leather working. Bamileke, Bamoum and Tikar are renowned for their wood carvings and sculptures. They are also noted for blue and white royal display cloth, elaborately beaded calabashes, and sculptures that include royal reliquaries. The Bamoum are also known for their bead working and lost-wax bronze sculptures. Pastoral groups such as Fulani and Hausa create art forms that are mostly related to cattle herding. The graphic arts of pastoral groups such as Fulani and Hausa are largely related to cattle herding.

Literature and Films: Known for their oral literature including poetry, history, stories, legends, proverbs, magic formulas, and riddles, the Fulani have been found to contribute greatly to the literature of Cameroon. Modern African literature has been endowed with works of Ewondo and Douala authors. Educated and encouraged by European missionary societies many authors like Louis-Marie Pouka and Sanke Maimo have advocated and praised colonialism and assimilation into European culture. Post World War II, however, colonialism was analyzed and criticized by writers such as Mongo Beti, Ferdinand Oyono, and others and assimilation rejected. In The post colonialism and problems of an African identity and development were issues much prevalent in the works of Beti and others post 1960.

Similar themes were taken up by film makers like Jean-Paul Ngassa and Therèse Sita-Bella post independence. Later in the mid 70's conflicts between traditional and post colonial society were highlighted in the works of filmmakers such as Dikongué Pipa and Daniel Kamwa . Cameroonian themes was what found importance in both literature and films during the next two decades or more.

Religion: Cameroon has a wide range of religious beliefs and often beliefs and practices are combined with local practices. About 53% of the population are Christians, 22% are Muslims and the rest 25% practice traditional religion. While the Christians dominate the Southern parts of the country the Muslims live majorly in the Northern region.

Language: Linguistically Cameroon was divided after the European Colonialism with presently both English and French being official languages. The Northwest and South west provinces of the country are inhabited by English speaking population while the French speaking people live in the rest of the country. While Cameroonian Pidgin English gained popularity it was gradually replaced by Camfranglais, particularly in the urban centers. Alongside these, Bantu or Semi Bantu language is also prevalent among the indigenous population.

Festivals: Most ethnic festivals include celebrating births, deaths, planting, harvests or religious events. Ngondo of the coastal Sawa peoples , Ngouon of the Bamoum, and Nyem-Nyem in Ngaoundéré are major festivals. Other holidays and festivals include Good Friday , Easter Friday, Easter Monday , Ascension , 'Id al-Adha , and Eid Milad Nnabi .

Architecture: Architecture of Cameroon has no strict pattern. Though traditional Grassfield architecture was mostly of bamboo it has now been replaced by earthen plasters on wooded frames, mud brick, pal thatch and even corrugated iron. Traditional architecture of the northern part is specified by round mud buildings crowned in thatch. Granaries are generally separated by walled compounds. However, all over the country all other forms of housing are gradually being replaced by structures built of concrete bricks, corrugated iron roofs, and iron grillwork.