Exploring Art and Culture in Cameroon
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Cameroon has a rich and varied history; it’s been inhabited by so many different nationalities over the years, making it a fascinating nation. In fact, with a population of over 26 million people, speaking over 250 languages, Cameroon is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Central Africa. To help you learn a little bit more about this multicultural and vibrant country, we wanted to take a deep dive into Cameroon’s culture and traditions. By learning more about Cameroon, we hope that you’ll gain more of an insight into the lives of our children and what makes Cameroon such a unique place to live.
With such turbulent history, culture and traditions in Cameroon are hugely important and keep the lifeblood of the country alive. There are so many different aspects to explore. While traditions and styles vary throughout the country, its various regions and religions, some things are integral to Cameroon’s culture.
In the first blog in our cultural series, we’re looking at arts in Cameroon and how they contribute to keeping this country's traditions and culture alive.
Like many African countries, Cameroon has a long-standing tradition of storytelling and oral literature. Tales and stories are a huge part of Cameroonian culture, acting as a way to impart knowledge without needing the ability to write. Popular titles of Cameroonian stories include Scared Door, The Story of The Bat and The Sun and The Foolish Leopard. Each tale has moral value and can teach us something about the culture of this fascinating nation. Storytelling helps to entertain and feed the imagination as well as educate and develop younger children. In traditional oral literature, it’s more than just the words; expressions, movement and evening singing help bring these stories to life making them a truly magical part of Cameroonian culture. The people of Cameroon consider passing down stories and folklore a vital way of keeping the country’s traditions and values alive for future generations. They help people to make sense of the world but also guide both children and adults through important parts of the country's culture.
Cameroon is also famous for crafts and handmade creations. As such a multicultural country, the people of Cameroon can produce some truly unique art and objects. From pottery and sculpture to textiles and woodwork; the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into producing these crafts are second to none. In continuing to create these traditional crafts, the people of Cameroon are keeping not only their culture alive but the country's visual identity too. Crafts in Cameroon form a huge part of their commercial, religious and even decorative identity, with different regions specialising in different areas of craft and having their unique style. Western areas of Cameroon are renowned for their woodwork and carvings as well as beadwork whereas North-Western areas of the county specialise in pottery and ceramics.
Traditional Music and Dance
As with most African countries, traditional music and dance are important to Cameroon’s culture. Music and performance art form an integral part of many of Cameroon’s traditional festivals, gatherings and ceremonies. As in any culture, music and dance are a major source of entertainment at these events. However, some of the performances do have traditional religious significance - this is also why traditionally in Cameroon men and women are expected to dance separately.
Cameroonian folk music is created using a variety of traditional African instruments. From drums, scrapers and percussion to flues, horns and even stringed instruments. This traditional music is used more in ceremonies or to accompany traditional dance. With over 250 different ethnicities residing in Cameroon, there are a huge variety of different rhythms, styles and tempos to be found across the country.
Cameroon has a diverse climate, earning the nickname ‘mini Africa’, which has led to many variations on traditional dress in the country. In northern regions, the majority of the population are Muslim. Therefore, traditional dress is free-flowing, and head coverings are popular. The south sees more rain and is forested; people in these areas wear richly patterned, embroidered fabrics with plenty of ruffles and details.
The Pagne is a traditional garment in Cameroon. This wrap style garment is worn by women in various ways including to carry children and is often beautifully patterned or embellished. The Kabba is another traditional garment worn by women which is a free-flowing, loose-fitting dress with wide sleeves. A Quartre Pouche is a traditional two-piece men's outfit in southern and tribal areas of Cameroon. The loose-fitting trousers and shirt are made with matching fabrics and often have a square pocket and matching hat.
In Cameroon today, traditional dress is worn more at ceremonies and special events. However, these garments form an important part of the country’s culture and identity. While a more modern approach to clothing is now the norm, these garments are still popular throughout Cameroon.
The earliest records of popular music in Cameroon are said to be in the 1930s when the French nationals brought their music taste over. However, the urbanisation of Cameroon has had a massive impact on its musical identity, making modern music an exciting part of the country’s culture.
The 1950s saw a style of native folk music called Bikutsi rise in popularity. Based on a war rhythm and traditionally performed by women, bikutsi features lyrics about everyday problems. Then, in the 1960s modern Makossa became the most popular genre in Cameroon, which is a style of funky dance music. In the 1990s and to this day, urban street-inspired music is popular in Cameroon.
We hope that this blog has given you more of an insight into this fascinating country and the lives of our children. Keep your eye out for more blogs about Cameroon’s rich and diverse culture.
If you’re interested in sponsoring a child or learning more about how you can help children in Cameroon achieve their dreams, then visit our sponsorship page.