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International evening "Meet the world": Cameroon 19.04.2012

On Thursday 19th of April the "Meet the World" series continued at Domus Dorpatensis with an opportunity to take a peek into the exotic culture of Cameroon.

The two hour tour was conducted by two Cameroonians, Dean Teneng, a PhD student of mathematics, and Gael White Njeukam, a footballer for Tartu JK Tammeka. They were accompanied by Mari Nuga, an Estonian volunteer who worked in Cameroon for 3 months.

Dean was the first to speak, giving an introductory overview of the geography, politics and population of Cameroon. Cameroon, a country ten times the size of Estonia, has a population of over 19 million people that speak around 230 different local languages and dialects besides the official ones, English and French. Dean pointed out some rather contradicting facts and statistics. For instance while Cameroon has a compulsory primary education and a 79% literacy rate, it also holds a life expectancy of only 48 years. A fact that Dean presented rather gleefully, bringing out a round of laughs from the audience on a grim subject: „Well, it means that when you get to 50 years in Cameroon... you probably die.”

Dean remained as joyful while speaking about the politics in Cameroon. „There are no elections,” he remarked. „But there have been elections!” Mari intervened with a surprise on her face. „Well yeah, but it’s like elections in Russia,” Dean replied, “you know who wins.” In fact, President Paul Biya has been in power from 1982 and Cameroon is usually rated as a non-free and non-democratic country.


Gael then took over with a more specific overview of the culture of the country.

He talked about different villages in Cameroon of which every last one has its own clothing colour patterns, dances and a king. Each region also has a bigger king ruling over other kings and the greatness of a king is presented through how many wives he has so while smaller village kings may have 5, a greater king may have 30. Gael illustrated his speech with various colourful pictures. Some of them contained Cameroonian houses, causing him to turn emotional: „European news show only huts when talking about Africa – that’s bullshit!” He showed examples of nice simple African architecture historically in no way lesser to its European counterpart.

As for the dances, Gael emphasized that the back for men and the butt, or to quote the more colloquial term, “booty” for women are the most important elements while practicing a native Cameroonian dance. To illustrate further, he presented some authentic Cameroonian dance moves. He also showed a video of Roger Milla, the best known African footballer of all time, dancing at a World Cup. With that, he had reached his favourite subject – football. The game is immensely popular in Cameroon, with people playing in villages without proper pitches or boots. Once in a while a team holds a large challenge for money where everyone participates. Gael also showed a picture of himself with the current national football hero Samuel Eto’o, formerly a star for the biggest European football clubs FC Barcelona and Inter. He expressed his huge admiration for Eto’o: „Lots of footballers forget their African roots but Eto’o represents Africa! He invests in hospitals, telephone marketing for people to have phones and so on.”


To round up the speakers, Mari gave a short summary of her time as a GLEN volunteer for an education project in Cameroon.

Opposite to Gael concentrating on villages, she had mostly been to larger towns such as the capital Yaoundé. She spoke a little about the locals’ attitude towards foreigners. For example, a reoccurring expression towards women is a “pssst” to catch their attention followed by “I love you”.  It’s common trying to seduce foreigners in hope of starting a new life back in the West where it’s easier to get a good education. In Cameroon there might be thousands of applications for a single scholarship. According to Dean it is also common practice to dump the ‘gullible’ foreigner after the relationship has reached the point where the migrated person has gained the desired education. On a lighter note, Mari showed some pictures of means of travel in Cameroon. For instance, taxis might be really packed with three people in front and more in the back while buses often have signs such as “no fighting”, “no vomiting” or “people must talk”.

After the formal part of the evening was over, the guests stayed long afterwards to answer questions showing that weather one may find Cameroon a safe place to visit or not, it would certainly be a dream tourist destination if all Cameroonians were as friendly and light-hearted as Dean and Gael.

You can find the power-point presentation about Cameroon here.

The event was supported by the Student Council of the University of Tartu.