Wednesday, April 23, 2008

at ease with myself

i often felt like wum was a microcosm of nigeria... geographically, we were quite close. in fact, there was some smuggling across the border in terms of trade. the big ticket item being the large honda motorcycle-taxis that plied the roads of wum. again, the motorcycle i’m standing next to in the photo to the top right is one example of that. i know the history of that moto-taxi all too well.

then there were nigerian movies. ubiquitous to the NW province... and beyond. what to say about nigerian movies? feature-length soap operas, basically. melodramatic. highly imaginative. a low-budget look. and, in my humble opinion, reinforcing too many of the ills in modern nigerian culture. from corruption to violence to promiscuity. for many anglophone cameroonians, however, the entertainment factor was simply too hard to resist.

the fault lines in wum were also very much like those in nigeria... ethnicity, religion, culture, lifestyle, indigeniety, etc. i’m thinking of two particular peoples (though many other actors often come into play), the aghem and the fulani. the first is a tribe indigenous to wum. mostly christian now, though with a strong traditional religious influence. the aghem are historically farmers. even those who’ve become traders or civil servants still have a strong connection, cultural or agricultural, to the land.

the fulani, on the other hand, are seen as outsiders to wum. and many other parts of anglophone cameroon. they are largely muslim. ethnically and culturally they are very distinct from many of the tribes of the northwest province. they look different. speak a different mother tongue, fulfulde. the fulani are historically pastoralists. this is the case across much of west africa. they were/are cattle herders, or graziers.

at least two generations ago, as i was told by a fulani, the aghem chief invited a group of aku graziers (as the aghem refer to them) to wum from nigeria, to address a scarcity of meat in the area. their numbers have grown since then and other fulani groups also came to settle in and around wum. what i noted in terms of local issues b/w aghem farmers and fulani graziers a few posts ago are the seeds of farmer-grazier tension in wum.

in nigeria (again, wum being a microcosm of the situation there) this underlying farmer-grazier tension has flared into conflict... if not fueled civil war. i began to sense this tension in wum soon after my arrival... in large part b/c i moved across the boundaries, or fault lines, so easily. i was an outsider, but thoroughly anglophone. and yet a muslim. i was an educated westerner, but also an easterner. i was a teacher, and respected b/c of that, but a young person that children and youth could also relate to.

as usual, i won’t go into much more detail here... though i’m afraid i already have. my intent was to introduce this issue, another big cross-cultural theme in the blog, and give some background to the story that will slowly play itself out in my journal entries. indeed, i often felt like it was playing itself out within me. for this is a theme clearly symbolic of my own struggle to come to terms with all facets of my identity. if i could be at peace and at ease with myself, why couldn't wum?


  1. IMAGE: a photo taken from atop the edge of lake wum, another crater lake. the view is of a valley to the edge of wum town proper, which is to the left of the photo. you get a good feel for the landscape. the high grasslands of the northwest. those are two of my GTTC students in the picture, on a class trip to the lake.

  2. Actually, Mohamad, this is a photo that was taken at the water catchment area around Prison Road. I could see this from my house. Remember, we did another field trip with your students to the catchment area. I recognized the fence posts. Plus, the hills around Lake Wum were not this high.


    good eye maggie!... thanks for the correction! so this is the same day as the picture above, right? must be. my students are wearing the same clothes.

    thanks again!

    peace :)