Monday, 19 May 2014

The man who fell in love with the voice coming from the Camerounian Mountains...

[Translated from the original spanish version by Ligia Cámara. Thank you!!!]

I don’t know what Monsieur Muriel said or heard between

- Excuse me, I’m calling from Switzerland, do you have a room available for…


- I hope this doesn’t bother you, but I would like to call again tomorrow to have the pleasure of speaking to you again.

I just know he fell in love with that voice that came from the mountains of Cameroun. In successive phonecalls the voice covered itself with history, the death of her first husband –a doctor from Ruanda- when her children were still very young, and the strength of that woman capable of feeding and educating her family all on her own.

He called her so many times that when he saw her for the first time in Yuandé it felt as if he knew her from way back, so in a brief period he packed his things, he “escaped” from Switzerland without telling his family (to avoid racist comments, I believe), and married that voice, that mermaid’s song that, as to the unsuspecting Ulysses, seized him from the start ;)

Would you like to wander around his home? Well come along; besides, I just read Abioseh Nicol’s poem,  “The meaning of Africa” ;)

In this wonderful surroundings, I couldn’t be upset when I was denied the visa to enter Ecuatorial Guinea, so I parted towards other mountains, the ones in the traditional towns of the Northeast. Given the bus’ delay, I changed my planned itinerary and started off in Baffousam. When I got to see the palace, one of many in the numerous kingdoms of Bamileké, I became breathless

But the biggest surprise was about to come for, in the next town, Bandjoun, they were celebrating the end of their great biannual festival. To top things off, the traditional dance was leaded by the very king wearing the gigantic and heavy feather hat that symbolizes the unity of his kingdom. And among the ecstacic crowd were no other than great kings of Western Africa, such as the one from Ghana covered in gold, Togo or Benin with his striking crown…

After this I could only go to the capital of the great kingdom of Bamoun, Foumbam, and enter the palace of the fascinating sultan Ibrahim Njoya, of a legendary culture, who invented an alphabet for his people adn who was very skilful negotiating with the coloners. Worthy successor of the giant king who won two battles at the same time, hence establishing the serpent of two heads as emblem of the kingdom. 

Unbelievably, the mountains still hid other surprises. And I don’t only mean the hot shower in Bamenda ;) . For now, take a look at the first of the palaces we found in the circular itinerary through the famous Ring Road, the palace of the fon of Babungo!

We continue, as one of the FOUR passengers of the front of the taxi, until we reach Kumbo, and after leaving the backpack in a hotel we head towards the palace. “Another” palace, you’ll probably think, as I did. Well, yes, but in this one the assembly of the nobility was gathered having a very sweet palm wine, which they offered me. I had to introduce myself, in front of them with the empty throne next to me –to which one has to give a sort of slap in sign of respect, even it the fon is not there. THey seem to like my three phrases mixing the preservation of the traditions with the palm wine and the soccer World Cup hehe. 

Now we’ll go to rest, right? Well no. We still have the most impressive stuff! Since I had heard some yelling, they explained to me that they were celebrating funerary rituals of a man that had died a week ago, a member of one of the two secret societies –that regulate the functioning of the tribe along with the King, who is the only one that can be in both.

So I stay at a “bar” with some of the town elderly who tell me to wait for the “Great Juju”. When we start to see children running and screaming we approach the widow’s ranch, which is where everyone is gathering. People talk of the Juju part joking part seriously as if he were a wild beast. And  indeed the first we see appear are some “hunters” or “guardians” with ropes and firing some liquid through their mouth to “call him”. And the people around me start to run…

They explain to me that if he approaches me, I should not escape –as wild dogs- but sit on the ground without looking at his eyes. But when he sees me, perhaps because of the camera, he becomes enraged and starts throwing objects at me. Such a stampede follows that I lose my balance and even my eyeglasses. And in the confusion I’m left alone, completely to the Great Juju’s mercy…

Luckily, after throwing me ground and some objects, when he starts jumping threateningly towards me the guardians call him throwing their liquid and “hiding” me with leaves and leather. And right away the Great Juju finds another prey…

Shocking. This is living African culture and the rest is just nonsense, right? ;)
Of course the next day not even the spectacular landscape, the picturesque little towns, nor the goat road from Misaje to Wum in motorbike with my backpack and another passenger could impress me too much. But the most ancient palace of Western Africa, the one from the fon of Bafut, you get a guided tour for no one else but you by his very own son!

To finish my wanderings throug Cameroun and to show you that it’s not all mountains, I went to the remote beach of bodjé, a little town of the south, to try to see the great marine turtles laying their eggs. I did not get to see that, but it was worth it just to spend the night alone in that infinite beach followed by the stars after contemplating

The Sun
About to fall in the Ocean
As the palm tree to my feet

The Earth about to rise
Showing also its last

And I looking in Ebdojé
The future buried
By the Ancestors…

After this entry I hope you can understand Monsieur Muriel a bit better and perhaps fall in love –you too- with the Voice of the mountains of Cameroun ;)

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