It is always a honour to be chosen out of so many and be invited to a Cartoon Comic Festival. When I first started out drawing, I only loved what I was passionate about and that was and still is to draw.
Flying with many Cameroonians and visitors to Yaounde, we first stopped at Douala, a prosperous city I understand, for some passengers to alight and then flew on to Nsimalen International Airport, a few minutes drive into Yaounde the seat of Government. Appreciation of a wonderful flight crew who treated all with first classÂ service ended with a round of applause from passengers when the plane landed both in Douala and YaoundÃ©.Â Swiss International Air LinesÂ linked with Switzerland providedÂ values such as quality, reliability and hospitality.
Each festival has it’s uniqueness and the 12th international Festival of Caricature and humour ( best known as FESCARHY) in Yaounde, Cameroon isÂ no exception. There were two aspects to the Festival. Firstly the Camp Artistique, a creative centre like a summer camp, is a big complex situated in a village where children are taught to draw comics and cartoons and basic Animation and where young artists gathered works together to create an African cartoon character. The facility provide the young ones the basic tools to draw and design with.Â Young artists at the camp met up with various Comic artists from Europe and around Africa. The Festival had it’s theme as CARTOON AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILD.
I was totally amazed at the fantastic drawings produced at the camp by these children who came from all around Cameroon regions French and English speaking and under the tutelage of Comic artists and book illustrators from France, around Africa and from Cameroon as well. Children in the age range of 8 – 12 and teenagers 13 -17 and adults 18 and above were all drawing at the camp with ambition. The natural, untouched vegetation visible from the windows at the camp was a sight to behold and seemed that a segment of the Jungle was filmed for Michael Jackson’s Earth song video. So it seems.
Secondly, the grounds ofÂ Hotel De Ville, housing the City of YaoundÃ© administration, (more like in the city Centre), was the focus of the Festival where works of various artists invited were displayed and those of artists and children from the camp as well. The minister of Culture, Ama Tutu Muna was invited to officially open the three day Festival. Visiting my exhibition stand as I was representing Nigeria as a Cartoonist in my own capacity, the Minister asked if I would like to come again. “Yes of course” I said and I suggested that the Government should endeavour to support young Cameroonian artists andÂ also an initiative such as the Festival of Caricature and humour (FESCARHY).Â I also did a caricature of the Minister which I presented to her.Â Other fellow comic artists and animators were also busy welcoming members of the public and Government officials to their stands.
To publicise the Festival, Popa, a friend and cartoonist from Tanzania and myselfÂ were driven early in the morning to the famous Breakfast TV show called BONJOUR an English speaking breakfast show on Cameroonian National TV (CRTV) and presented by the witty Albert. Before going live on to the show we were ushered into the makeup room. We felt Hollywood beckoning. We also went for a pre-recorded interview on Cameroon’s National radio station.
Leontine Babeni Babel, the Director of Fescarhy found the need to hold comic festivals in Cameroon as she discovered that Cameroonian Cartoonists and Comic artists needed a placeÂ where they could express themselves through drawing. She is passionate about these projects. Another projectÂ close to her heart was an exhibition around the gardens of City hall called Fifty Women of Impact in which various artists illustrated each woman as a form of tribute to Cameroon women emerging from 50 years of the reunification of Cameroon. The first lady, Chantal Biya isÂ included among the 50 women.Â Fondly called Babel, she explained that the choice was born out ofÂ the desire of Fescarhy to celebrate and glorify the woman. Everyone in her team had to keep up with Babel. It was arranged for Popa and myself to meet with the young artists from the Camp and help with the many questions they wanted answers to.Â So we gave encouraging answers. Many came with their portfolio filled with impressive works for us to take a look at and for advice.
We were looked after very well by the peaceful Cameroonians and by Cameroonian artists, Bibi Benzo and Yannick Sikoue. And we were alsoÂ in the good company of fellow artists such asÂ Barly Baruti (Congo), Joel Salo (Burkina Faso), Cisse Samba (Senegal) and Pahe (Gabon) to mention a few. There were comics produced by Cameroonians on displayÂ at the Festival as well.Â As we both spoke EnglishÂ and only a few words in French, the greatest means of communication for Popa and myself was sketching out our questions and needs when we were on our own or exploring the streets of Yaounde. My many thanks to Edmond Elanga, Fabien Dingom, Jose Nolga (who we called the Special one) and Estelle. And thanks also to the kitchen staff at the Camp who introduced me to Bobolo, a popular staple food eaten in Cameroon with fried fish. I had a week of not eating processed foods in Cameroon.
Cameroonians are in awe of Nigerians. This is saying much from people of a country that has power supply continuously.