In the wake of the recent uprisings in the North and South West Regions, Revue des Citoyens des Lettres launches a call for submissions for poems that explore and examine the Anglophone Problem in Cameroon.
Poems on the Anglophone Problem: A Call for Submissions
There has been a lot of cacophony going on in the country of late, and, as artists, there is no room for silence. Indeed, artists are the vehicles of culture. As such, they are called upon to respond to cultural crossroads like the one Cameroon is currently at.
Cameroon is a cultural melting pot, taking into consideration its bilingual nature, its welter of local languages, and its dual colonial and historical heritage; which realities are all supposed to serve as key assets to catapulting the country onto the world stage as a cultural and developmental behemoth. Unfortunately, recent happenings, starting with the November 2016 teachers and lawyers’ strike which was greeted with massive arrests, an Internet cut in the North and South West Regions of the country, the killing and molestation of students and unarmed civilians, the destruction of property, and the upsurge of dissenting voices on what has been termed the Anglophone Problem, have put the country’s unity to the test. In similar circumstances in the past, art and artists rose to the challenge, channelled revolutions, brought peace, and shaped the destiny of nations; in Jamaica with Bob Marley, in South Africa with Lucky Dube and Miriam Makeba, in Ireland with Oscar Wilde, in the classical era with artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Plato, Aristotle, etc. If these people succeeded in influencing their societies by preaching positive change, then present day Cameroonian artists can achieve the same for their society. It is indeed time to rise to the challenge like other artists are already doing in other countries. As an example amongst many, we recently saw artists come together to pay homage to the Manchester bombing victims. This is where this project, titled Making the Best out of Cameroon’s Cultural Salad Bowl, comes in.
On Saturday 12 July 1884, the German official Gustav Nachtigal concluded a treaty with the Duala chiefs around the coastal region of the territory that would later be known as Kamerun. That treaty would become a landmark even in the life of other peoples and kingdoms in the hinterland like the Bamum, the Bali, the Nso, the Lamidats in the North, the Bayang of the South West, the Ewondo, the Bulu in the South, etc. These powerful kingdoms were bound together for the next 30 years before the outbreak of the First World War. After this war, the territory known as Kamerun was divided between Britain and France and the resulting trust territories lived as separate entities and, thus, had different colonial experiences from 1916 to 1961 when the 11 February 1961 plebiscite brought them back together. This means that these combined villages and kingdoms lived together under the Germans for 35 years and, then, as separate entities under different colonial ideologies for 45 years. Since the 1961 reunification therefore, the country, Cameroon/Cameroun, has struggled with cultural integration and this “struggle” culminated in protests in 1990, leading to the creation of the Decentralisation process the same year. Unfortunately, the shortcomings of the latter were exposed in late November 2016 with the uprising in the North and South West Regions.
In this context, the goal of the project is to galvanise the finest Cameroonian poets of the younger generation, and of both sexes, to project their voices through these historical curtains and, ultimately, explore different routes Cameroon can follow to let the dust of division settle. The project will include poets from both French- and English-speaking parts of the country, on a fifty-fifty basis. The poets shall present their own reading of the Anglophone Problem today, or share their thoughts on being a Cameroonian citizen in the context of the country’s colonial experiences and what its peoples have gone through; from annexation to the First World War, independence, reunification of the former French and British Cameroons in 1961, and thereafter.
The project is a call to look back at history, recognise the loopholes, celebrate the beauty of culture, and map out ways through which the people can use their multiculturalism and bilingualism as assets to conquer the world.
– Participants should be Cameroonian, resident in or out of the country.
– The poems should be in English or French.
– Participants should be 18–35 years by December 2017.
– The poems should be void of vulgar expressions.
– The poems should not exceed 40 lines.
– Send five poems (no less no more!).
– Entries should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than October 31.