Considering the current state of Africa, where effective democracy has remained a dream since the advent of the independence of various African nations, the International Festival of Humor and Caricature (FESCARHY), Yaounde, Cameroon in its 14th year selected its theme as AFRICA: The Democratic Symphony.
Through training workshops, the festival brought together 10 Cartoonists, 4 Humorists as well as 10 well known journalists and historians to reflect on the theme, and who all participated through various contributions. The cartoonists from some African states included TAYO Fatunla (representing Nigeria), Zapiro (South Africa), Pov (Mauritius), Pahe (Gabon) Popa (Tanzania) Asimba (Democrtic Republic of Congo), Tawfiq (Tunisia) and Cameroonian cartoonists Retin, Moss, Bibi Benzo and Malyk.
Ahead of the week-long festival, African cartoonists and humorists were given space to create, reflect and exchange discussions and views with historians and journalists, relating to change in power and democracy in Africa. Most discussions took place at Camp Artistique in Lada-Nkoabang village. Zapiro, a well know cartoonist from South Africa, also did an exceptional slide presentation of his cartoons giving an insight with his meetings with Nelson Mandela and the dislike of his cartoons by Jacob Zuma, whom he had run-ins with over his cartoons. A sign also that press freedom prevails in South Africa.
Camp Artistiqe is a creative Summer Camp Centre for Child Development and for variety of creative functions and discussions. During the Comic Festival, children could be seen drawing cartoons and with various styles and techniques that can rival styles and techniques of artists in the West. Children are usually sent by parents to the camp during school holidays from French and English speaking Cameroon regions. They are taught to draw comics and cartoons and basic Animation and the camp is also where young artists could gather works together to create cartoon characters and use images as a Visual Commentary to promote vaccinations and other public announcements. Each day children were taken to Government building where they imbedded their creative thoughts on building’s wall. Under the supervision of French artist Lilou Touitou and Cameroonian, Cédric Kenfack, the wall painting was completed within the duration of the Festival.
It was great working with young aspiring Cameroonian artists in Yaoundé Cameroon at the grounds of Bois Sainte Anasthasie (ST. Anasthasie Woods – The woods is situated in the centre of the capital, and dedicated to Mama Eyenga Anasthasie Mvondo – the late mother of President Biya). I was at hand to answer questions from the young artists and provided inaccessible drawing materials and comics, which I had raised funds for, to give to them for the duration of my week stay, by invitation. Their ages ranged from 7 to 16 year olds to young adults.
An exhibition of Cameroon’s Greatest Men was on the grounds of the woods and the same beautiful displays were compiled into a book by Cameroonian artists who took a year to produce highlighting achievements of great Cameroonians past and present, with text in French and English. The Cameroonian Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Arts and Culture officially opened the exhibition and with point of interest, went round the exhibition with cartoonists explaining to him their displayed works and how they arrived at each concept.
The exhibition with an impressive turnout was opened under the glare of invited guests, Government officials, artists and performers. Noteworthy, the exhibition is planned to be taken to the 8 regional head towns of Cameroon and 10 main cities across Africa. The exhibition will end up depicting the state of democracy on the continent. It is expected to last one month on each site. FESCARHY is the brain child of Cameroonian, Leontine Babel Babeni, and director of the festival who is a woman passionate about the works of African Cartoonists and Comic artists. She felt the need to showcase not only the works of Cameroonian cartoonists but from around Africa as well engaging them in this year’s themed discussion. An expected outcome of the festival included an exchange network to be built by the end of the festival, a mobile exhibition, a comic book to be produced and an event book for youths to be published which was realized.