Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Contribution of Manyu Women in Cameroonian Artistry

Let me start with a shout out to my mother Hannah Ako; a true Manyu woman who gave her all for me. The Manyu woman contributed greatly in artistry in Cameroon as compared to many women in other places. Most of the art that was done in Manyu was done by women since the men were in the forests falling down iroko and mahogany trees. One of the greatest pieces of art was the Ngbokodem (an immobile statuesque representing a dead lady). You can still find most of the villages in the hinterland of Manyu but the practice of Ngbokodem was still in Ntenako up to the late 90s; for you still have most of the statues. Entertainment was mainly Monikim.

A female child was selected and kept indoors for 6 months where she was taught various dances and songs and then various villages were invited for the unveiling of the siren from which she would also find a husband. Until the forties in the Manyu community, most women were not sent to school because of fear of her being beaten but mainly because education was regarded as investment and that if she got married it would be an investment to the husband rather than the family.

A former classmate from Mbeva quarters in Ntenako City was selected to become a Monikim dancer. First she had to be trained for six months in a locked down situation where she appears outside only to be taught how to dance and gyrate her hips. The lady that was selected was not the tadpole type without bherackghanet (lustful buttocks). She had it all in one packet that when she swings it to her left then to her right everyone fell the jingling or as her behind swung “jiggiri jiggiri”.

The people gathered every evening to watch her learn how to dance as they sang. The young men hovered around trying to pick up young girls for mami and papa. It was usually a time of diversion for the young people and she was usually like a role model that most young girls wanted to emulate. They coordinately gyrated their hips like whirligigs to the musical rhythm played from locally made drums and flutes.

The monikim disciple wore foot bells that jingled and produced a subtle and soothing music as she dances. She also had beads on her neck and a red hat with feathers and beads. Dancing Monikim was not for adventurers, wanabes or even impostors because any defiance was rewarded with a heavy fine.

In addition, the Manyu women were in charge of hoeing the farms and also fishing with locally knitted baskets as their men cleared the farms and did the hunting. Women who dared try to do what men did were given the misnomer of a man (sterile and can not bear children) or an affront to men. That does not mean there were no exceptions; the crazy feminists of those days.

Every major part of the Manyu tradition like most African traditions had the inclusion of libations and oblations and the rest depended solely on the individual families for there was not a fixed rule that spelt out the requirements and conditions from the major ones I put forth in my introductory paragraph.

Furthermore, the ngboghondems and Epkeres in addition to efakghas (clappers made out of Indian bamboos), architectural design: membohs (locally made mud beds) and bhekereh-ntop (hand-plastered houses) were living signatures of the women’s art. Before the women plastered the house the men will first pin the goads, the women come and plaster then the men will return to roof it. During each session they did it with songs or praise and made the job look light and as one community.

Nowadays, the women are doing a lot for most of them have been the bulldozers of the virgin forests that were jobs done by men alone. The breakthrough in technology means that there is virtually a fine line between a woman’s duties and a man’s job. The major difference will be especially that of bearing children; since women have been anatomically created to conceive and deliver children. More so, the presence of money that makes things easier for everyone. If a woman has money she can hire people who would clear her farms and plant cocoa. That is why you have women with cocoa farms which was a business handled by men only.

Nevertheless, though with the evolution of the society, certain aspects of the Manyu culture still remain strange lands to women thereby marginalizing them and still making them inferior. The Ekpe has strictly been a patriarchal society though you may have women playing a limited and supervised role like clapping and singing too by the corners. Women have been in Nkanda- a sister to Ekpe and they are usually called Ekandims. A shout out to Ekandim Meg and Ekandim Chu of Delaware. Furthermore, there has never been a female (Ewujom) Obasinjom carrier as with the male counterpart.

Unfortunately, with the evolution of the society, people are losing interest especially not seeing the financial remuneration that accompanies it nowadays. At first it was certain you would end up with a good (wealth, strength and beauty included) husband especially because men looked at the woman's behinds first before making advances in those days. A thin girl was never selected to dance or if she was selected she had serious bherackghanet else you could hear an angry male voice in the crowd shout “fere ka yi a bheke bwong bherackghanet” (remove her; she does not have big buttocks). You smile; don’t you? End of Story!

Until then, a shout out to all the Manyu women out there.

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk).
Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk).

Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).

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