Yaoundé by May

A short 5 day work trip to Yaoundé, Cameroon.  This was my first central African state so I was curious as to what is common and what sets it apart from the 9 others I have visited since 2002 starting with Ghana, my most frequented African state.

– attendant in bakery: you are from China?

– bureaucrat in his office, after I get his last name right on first attempt: I am surprised you can pronounce my name; most people get it wrong. Me: if the name is in your local language, I will get it right.

Not speaking French was a handicap    also a source of amusement for the women working in the bakery.

what is common: the quintessential African green    the booming laugh    the roadside stall    mud    old cars    70s architecture    at ease with unlit spaces
what sets it apart: too bureaucratic    policewomen at breakfast

I wrote my last post while in Yaoundé, and just before leaving the hotel room wrote this:

need of the forest    burn
of the

ashen past    will    wilnot
the bread

of fury and tread of summer
these are

kind, various, available as
pastime

To get some background, there have been two presidents since independence in 1962. The current one is in power since 1982. This bit of information alone might go some way in explaining the high bureaucratization and security. The late Eqbal Ahmed in his 1980 paper, “Post colonial systems of power” (which I visualized here), categorized Cameroon then as pragmatic-authoritarian. This is how he defines pragmatic-authoritarian:

This highly personalized system of power enjoys a certain legitimacy and the support of significant sections of the population by virtue of the historical nationalist credentials of the leader.

Two noteworthy characteristics: these deeply pro-Western regimes tend to prefer strong political, economic and cultural ties with the ex-colonial metropolis rather than the United States. The strength of the armed forces remains circumscribed and, in comparison with civilians, military officers are assigned lower status in the official hierarchy.

this new vista

“But the native intellectual who wishes to create an authentic work of art must realize that the truths of a nation are in the first place its realities. He must go on until he has found the seething pot out of which the learning of the future will emerge.” Frantz Fanon, “The Wretched of the Earth”.

this new vista, a gradual
leaflet of sky, the rune

of an antiquity resigned
to seed the fringes of an

ticipation: the grunge and
dung of it, the hapless

beat of song’s tyranny cap
tured in this visitation.

As you try and bleed the past

“We lived in a society which denied itself heroes.” – V.S. Naipaul
“This is not writing. He should stop writing. He should be selling sausages.” – Eqbal Ahmad on V.S. Naipaul

As you try and bleed the past onto the speak of now,
Look for the hooded guilt past the sentence of ilk &

Brood, the tripping verb thrilled by the possibility
Of sheen that traps the rook, the sow, the seed that

Bit the hand that fed the pith of scorn, the hand of
Up, of law. And as you try and mock the horn of dust

And cut of rain, and gasp at awe & awe again, whence
Will come the ore of night, which die is cast today? 

from rebellion to roar

The peasant of old was content with
rebellion, with skirting the fronds
of power as it descended cupfroth from
up high, with skimming the sheen
of lava as it settled down in crusty
sleep, but she bristled the unkempt
bristle often enough to prime her
peep for growl when it’s time.

A tangent taken while re-reading Eqbal Ahmad‘s insightful 1980 article, “From potato sack to potato mash: the contemporary crisis of the third world”.

The river and the law

The river meanders through the now
On to tomorrows all the while silting
The past onto its bed, revisiting it.

Deeds and land and titles and contracts
Circumscribe the river’s ownership, and
Peg its worth to the whim of the marketeer.

Blood and rage and tears tear through
The fabric of power eking out cries, cries
Older than power, and as old as sin.

Machinations of modernity confound deed
With law and the harvesting of seed with
Reflections on dead leaves and stolen tales.

Silence at the root of the river bed
Listens to the wind, to the chirp of
A wayward bird, to the mountain, still.

I Am The River – Documentary on the New Zealand Maori on aljazeera.com