Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crafts In Cameroon

In New Mexico, we loved to go to local craft fairs. The Indian Market and Spanish Market in Santa Fe were particularly wonderful. We loved to see and learn the local skills, sometimes passed down generation to generation. There is one family of weavers in Chimayo that has been weaving for seven or eight generations!  We knew there are traditional handicrafts in Africa, but didn't know what the scene would be like here in Kumbo.  There are Elephants in Africa, but not in Kumbo, you know? So is there art here?

YES! There is! Emphatically yes! We are slowly learning about the various traditional crafts, and I'm sure we will learn more. Today was a learn-more day, as we attended an arts and crafts competition. Regional craftsmen and craftswomen show off their work, try to sell a few pieces, and compete for judged prizes... CASH prizes. Generous cash prizes.

Logan and I only heard about the event the day before, from one of the participants. She makes jewelry at the Himalayan Institute, which is doing great things to train people in various useful trades. We took Isabelle and Max with us, and set off to find out just how artsy and craftsy Cameroon can be.

On the taxi ride to the fair, it started pouring rain. It is dry season, it's not supposed to rain. The taxi got to the roundabout in Squares, where the passengers all get out and switch taxis according to their destination, but nobody got out. And the rain kept coming. And coming. Finally, there was a break in the rain, and we rushed over to a taxi heading for Tobin, which dropped us off at the Library at the Himalayan Institute, where we waited out the rain. The rain! Why the rain? Who knows... I'm thankful because it reduces the dust from the road and it waters the trees and our garden. 

But the mud. Oh my, the mud. When we finally got to the craft fair, it was clear and sunny, and totally muddy. We squelched around looking at all the beautiful works. There were painters, weavers, carvers, embroiderers, even coffee roasters and soap makers.  We saw some absolutely gorgeous carved tables and chairs, and the wheels started turning... they weren't that bad a price, either!
We didn't buy anything big, but we did get the contact info for several of the artists. We were also pleased to discover that the local coffee makers, Bime (bee-may), has a nice blend.  They grow coffee here in Nso' and roast coffee here in Nso' and we buy the coffee and drink the coffee here in Nso', but it doesn't taste that good. Apparently, we've just been buying the wrong variety. Buy the red bag, not the brown and yellow bag, next time you are shopping for local Nso' coffee.

Any Cameroonian event is incomplete without speeches, and so we listened to those, and then continued to look at all the works while Samba groups played music to "animate," including a giant xylophone and a troupe of Jujus dancing. I wished I could buy from and support all the artists, but some things just aren't possible. We didn't hear the results from the judges, as the sky was threatening rain again(!) so we packed up and went to our favorite spaghetti omelet restaurant. You've never had a spaghetti omelet? They are a yummy, and most importantly, safe, food to order. Safe because they make them right then and there instead of hours or days before, and your risk of the food making you sick is low.

Now we are home, and are preparing to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. See, we forgot to put our shoes out last night and St. Nicholas passed our house over, but I talked to him and if we leave our shoes out during dinner, we'll have a nice surprise when we finish.

Tomorrow we plan to head back to Tobin for the third time in three days. Thursday we went to the post office and the Himalayan Institute, Friday was the Library and the Craft fair, and Tomorrow will be the (other) Library and... The Annual Horse Race! We're excited to see the Mbororo people, who show up in droves, because they have horses. It's not looking anything like Christmas, but December in Cameroon is shaping up to be its own bunch of fun.


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