Socially: the program provides very entertaining and enriching alternatives to street gangs, drugs and prostitution. Read more

Economically: the program saves the city council huge amounts of money in terms of policing, drug, alcohol and other social rehabilitation programs and prison upkeep. Read more

Culturally: it enriches the city or country. Africa still remains a mystery to most people. Its culture is little known. Read more

Tourism: many cities and countries derive a huge chunk of their revenues from tourism. Read more

Health: the explosion of child obesity and other numerous health concerns tied to inactivity in North America provides a good reason for the introduction of these dances. Read more

My first encounter with Tamukung

I have long concluded that the answer to the problem of street gangs lies in culture. So, what is in a culture? Why am I so convinced that it is the best way forward? Perhaps my own and other stories will make this point even clearer.

Way back in the early sixties, when I was still very young, I vividly recall my first real conscious encounter with culture. At the time I was in Ndop, a village in the territory once referred to as British Southern Cameroons in West Africa. My father, a blacksmith and farmer, had moved to this village in the forties from Bamendankwe, the land of his ancestors. At the time Ndop was a small town and the seat of the local government since the days of the British colonial administration.

It was here that I was born and raised and I grew up knowing very little of my parents’ birthplace. Ndop is a vast fertile plain set in the midst of hills. A national breadbasket, it is involved in a good number of economic activities, ranging from cattle breeding through coffee to rice production. Made up of thirteen villages, this sweeping land that looks like a pool table from the surrounding highlands was once at the crossroads of the Tikar and Chamba migrations. Here, these two major ethnic groups, whose activities are largely responsible for the current tribal configuration of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon, staged the most dramatic of their martial and migration activities.

As a cultural crossroads, an administrative headquarters, and economic hub, Ndop often hosted numerous important events that drew large crowds from all parts of Southern Cameroons and even beyond. One of such events was the annual Agricultural Show, an occasion used to showcase the most modern food production and processing methods as well as the best agricultural tools. Important as agriculture was and still remains to this day in this part of Cameroon, organizers knew back then that it needed more than one activity, no matter how important, to attract the kind of population that often made such events a success. So, in addition to agricultural activities, the occasion was also used to promote other aspects of development such as culture, local crafts, the environment and a plethora of budding industries. 

The kind of obsession with which French colonization attempted to wreak and completely destroy local cultures in most of Africa did not exist in the British territories. Lord Lugard, who saw action in Uganda and northern Nigeria (a name standing for “Niger area” that was coined by his girlfriend, Flora Shaw) had perfected the British policy of indirect rule, that of governing their West African territories through local leaders. More interested in extracting resources and selling goods than in convincing Africans to become Europeans, they were keener on preserving and promoting local cultures. This policy carried over in the post-colonial dispensation when local leaders saw cultural preservation and promotion as a means to enhance their people’s progress and development.

It, therefore, came as no surprise that during those Agricultural Shows, there were cultural manifestations and competitions among the participating ethnic groups in the region. In no aspect of culture was this competition fiercer than in folk dances. I had overheard my parents talking about the extraordinary performance of the Tamukung Dance (from my parents’ birthplace of Bamendankwe) in these clashes of cultural titans, but their conversations did not really make sense to me. It might have just been another dance troupe, I reckoned; Menang, for instance, that was the folk dance of the Bamunka people of Ndop, or Mugwachu, the one of my father’s ancestral compound. read more