Cameroon’s new literary generation is asserting itself globally | Arts and Culture

Cameroon’s new literary generation is asserting itself globally | Arts and Culture

Yaounde, Cameroon – Five years in the past, Howard Meh-Buh Maximus was learning for a PhD in microbiology on the University of Buea, the capital of Cameroon’s South-West area. While he all the time loved penning tales, he solely shared them with buddies and by no means actually noticed himself turning into a author.

“We are in Cameroon; you don’t see young people [studying to] become writers – you only see them [aspiring to] become doctors,” the 31-year-old stated.

But when Maximus heard on the time a couple of writing contest in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, he determined to use by submitting a 300-word story. The piece received him a ticket to the programme and grew to become the explanation he met Dzekashu MacViban, the founding father of Bakwa, who satisfied Maximus to start curating quick tales and essays on the English-language literary publication home.

With Cameroon’s Anglophone disaster erupting in 2016, Maximus started engaged on a group of quick items about how the predicament is affecting younger individuals’s lives within the English-speaking North-West and South-West areas.

Through Bakwa Books’s tutoring, he wrote essays for American journal Catapult, The Africa Report and in 2018 was one of many 10 writers for Limbe to Lagos: Non-fiction from Cameroon and Nigeria, a group of quick tales from Cameroonian and Nigerian writers.

Last yr, Maximus utilized to the Miles Morland Scholarship, a charity organisation funding writing tasks of African creatives yearly, and received a virtually $25,000 grant to provide manuscripts for a e-book he had proposed.

Bakwa has been holding workshops and writing contests to determine potential writers [Courtesy Bakwa Magazine]

“[The book] is about four friends in an acapella group: They are from different backgrounds and have different struggles – they meet in school, start singing and suddenly they are caught in the Anglophone crisis. Instead of focusing on making it big in their dream, they are now struggling to survive,” stated Maximus, who is at present writing the e-book, and additionally within the United States on one other scholarship learning for Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Texas State University.

He makes an extended listing of younger common writers at Bakwa whose works are gaining worldwide recognition. They embody Nkiacha Atemnkeng, one other MFA scholar in Texas who additionally received a Sylt Foundation Writing Residency in 2018; Clementine Ewokolo Burnley, a frontrunner for the Bristol Short Story Prize and Amsterdam Open Book Prize; and Nana Nkweti, a 2019 Caine Prize finalist who has written for a number of US journals and magazines together with Brittle Paper, New Orleans Review and The Baffler.

“A very crucial part of what we have done at Bakwa is to build a community for writers,” stated MacViban, who is at present in Germany on a writing residency. “Beyond having a place where they can publish their works, they need a community.”

MacViban began Bakwa in 2011 as a response to the shutting down of Pala Pala, the lone Anglophone literary and arts challenge that had folded earlier that yr.

Dzekashu MacViban, Bakwa Magazine founder [Courtesy Bakwa Magazine]

Three years later, MacViban began doing workshops and writing contests to determine potential writers.

“There are many writers with raw talents but it takes a lot of work to transform these talents into refined brands,” he stated.

MacViban additionally started gathering younger Francophone writers and has launched into translating items from the authors in Cameroon’s each official languages. An instance is Hemley Boum’s award-winning Les Jours Viennent et Passent, which received the Prix Ahmadou-Kourouma in 2020 in France.

“We are trying to build bridges because when you look at Cameroon, there is so much division and dissatisfaction. We see our role as mediators,” MacViban stated.

The Anglophone battle started in 2016 when the federal government used deadly pressure to place down peaceable rallies by legal professionals and lecturers protesting towards perceived marginalisation by the nation’s majority Francophone authorities. In response, dozens of armed separatist teams shaped to struggle for an unbiased nation they known as Ambazonia. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated greater than 700,000 individuals have been displaced by violence, and no less than 4,000 civilian casualties have been recorded.

In current years, authors similar to John Nkemgngong Nkengasong and Bole Butake have used their work to shine a light-weight on the Anglophone disaster. An instance is Nkengasong’s Across the Mongolo – printed in 2004 – which particulars the lifetime of an Anglophone scholar who struggles to adapt in a Francophone space.

Cameroon’s literary aptitude didn’t achieve a lot consideration globally till 2014 when Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian based mostly within the US obtained a $1m advance for the manuscripts of her debut e-book, Behold the Dreamers. The quantity printed in 2016 and chosen by Oprah Winfrey in her e-book membership the next yr chronicles two New York City households throughout the 2008 monetary disaster: One an immigrant from Cameroon and one other a rich US household who employs the previous. Things turned bitter when each breadwinners within the households lose their sources of revenue due to the disaster.

Dibussi Tande, a political scientist and editor of, Bearing Witness: Poems from a Land in Turmoil, a poetic piece recording the horrors of the Anglophone disaster, believes “the growing recognition of rising expertise from Cameroon because the publication of Behold the Dreamers in 2016 appears to point that publishers and brokers are actually giving severe consideration to hitherto ignored Cameroonian literary abilities.

“Imbolo Mbue’s success has, undoubtedly, shone the global spotlight on Cameroonian literature not merely because Imbolo is originally from Cameroon but because her books are partially set in Cameroon or describe very Cameroonian realities,” Tande stated.

The predecessors of this new generation of writers – towering authors similar to Bate Besong, Ferdinand Oyono, Mungo Beti, Linus T Asong and Mbella Sone Dipoko – have created exemplary works which might be being studied in Cameroonian faculties and different establishments within the nation. However, technological restraints and Cameroon’s long-drawn-out language divide meant they lacked entry to publishing platforms and worldwide recognition.

“The new generation is/will be more successful than the first- and second-generation Cameroonian writers, not necessarily because they are more talented, but because this generation has more opportunities and exposure thanks to the internet and social media,” Tande stated.

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