batanga en fête

Last week when I went to Kribi to visit the model forests, we arrived to a town in full festive swing.  The main roads were blocked and there were people everywhere.  Street parades are very common.  But by the look of the festive dresses and motorized floats, I knew this had a colourful story attached to it.

I asked a colleague explain to me what was being commemorated.  And as I write his explanation – authoritative as it aught to be considering he is a traditional chief from that area – I cannot verify it with other sources.  The internet is devoid of information in regards to the Batanga peoples!  One must do with the historical records that we have…

This is what my colleague told me:

During the First World War, the Germans and the French were not only fighting in Europe but also in the colonies of Africa.  In Cameroon, this played out in various regions.  With a reduction in its labour force in the SouthWest, the Germans approached several tribes of the South region, asking if they would relocate and work their fields.  Many of the villages were approached.  Some refused.  Some accepted.

The Batanga peoples were one of the groups that accepted and on February 14th 1914, they left the South Region, only to return on May 9th, 1916.  So each year, the Batanga peoples hold a commemorative celebration marking this return.

marching down the main drag wearing the commemorative pagne

My colleague explained that there is starting to be a distortion in this history – most likely a gift of time and perspective.  He said that the villages were never forced to go work the fields in the SouthWest – his own grand-father who was traditional leader at the time refused and suffered no consequences.  But as is human nature, we like to think of a return as triumphant, and therefore we make it so.  No harm in that, really.

In any case, the Batangas sure can throw a great street party and rock the town!!!

Still not sure why teenage boys wear their sister’s dresses and wigs, but surely that is a different story altogether.

the view from the top of the float

kids getting into the spirit of the fête

~ by Caroline Spira on May 16, 2011.

One Response to “batanga en fête”

  1. Pardon the fuzzy pictures, folks. Besides the fact that it was raining, my camera now blows smoke when I take a picture… and so the quality of the picture, it appears, is affected. Or at least that’s my excuse for the moment. 😉

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