Raining Season School
Mercredi 17 Aout 2022, nous avons organisé dans notre espace en présence du Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung un symposium qui marquait la fin de 12 mois de recherche, d'apprentissage de rencontre et de partage sur le sujet de la restitution, la réhabilitation et la reparation.
Unlearning and being Freed
The year 2020 was plagued with marking events for the World, for Africa, and us.
2020 was the birth of The Forest Creative loft in Douala Cameroon, an independent art space that dwells in the heart of Bali. The motive of the founding of this growing institution was to imagine a space that will be the location of the reinvention of dreams through conversations and interactions.
2020 saw the advent of one of the most dangerous viruses the world has experienced yet, infecting 567 million people, and killing over 6.37 million people. The prognostics made by the western world to the plight of Africa made the fright heavier for us living in countries with poorer medical and sanitary facilities.
“Look at what is happening in Ecuador, they are putting bodies out on the streets, you are going to see that in countries in Africa,” Melinda Gates
She added that when she “saw what China had to do to isolate an enormous part of its population, my first thought was Africa. How in the world are they going to deal with this?”
Well, Africa proved them wrong. In the flow of reinvention, 2020 saw the birth of African herbal medicine, the same science that had been characterized as unscientific took center stage in the treatment of the corona virus in Africa. The president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, endorsed the use of herbal treatment made from Artemesia to cure the COVID 19 and that's how the scramble for artemisia started (The Malagasy authorities are not the only ones to see the potential benefit of artemisia in the struggle against Covid-19 – Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and US company ArtemiLife Inc are also working on tests.)
The study, conducted in Denmark and Germany, focuses on the same plant as the one cultivated and processed in Madagascar – artemisia annua. The plant materials for the test are being provided by ArtemiLife Inc, a Delaware-based company, that says it has fields growing artemisia outside Lexington, Kentucky. The WHO( World Health Org) and Western media wasted no time to warn against this treatment. In Cameroon the Archbishop Kledal also produced two herbal treatments "Elixir Covid" and "Adsak Covid" which he gave freely to many people who were contaminated with the virus. As Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, initiator of this project, puts it “One thing that came up my mind and i see it happening is that in the middle of this pandemic Africans across the continent but especially those that I saw in Cameroon have also gone back to using their local medications. One can say that there is a kind of Rehabilitation or restitution of local medicine. Maybe this is what has kept us from perishing”.
The Covid episode is just one example among many that exposes the situation of the imbalance in terms of knowledge production between the South and the West. What is scientific and what is not? How do you justify that the testimonies of the impact of those “natural” solutions were being questioned by a community that has centralized the definition of medicine and its understanding for so many centuries. The multiple negative media communications around the fact that many Africans were finding solutions to heal from the virus were just ways to delegitimize them and to discourage people from using them.
The Head curator of the Africa 2020 cultural season« Archivage d’histoires Imaginaires » N’Goné Fall in an interview with JeuneAfrique came up with a leitmotif; never speak in place of a continent of more than 1 billion inhabitants. For Fall and her team Africa 2020 was that platform where African voices will be heard for healing to take place.
”Getting out of Françafrique, yes, but how do we do it? We think together, on both sides, and we break down the clichés, on both sides. We lay down our arms, let go of resentment and try to plan for tomorrow, together. There is a lot of education to be done. Sometimes you even have to clean up.”
She was right on so many points but one; the ones to drop the arms are the ones inviting us to dance for them and this for the umpteenth time.This right there was not the solution Africans needed, the whole show was ‘evenementiel’ from June 2020 to Dec 2020, it felt like continual learning from the neocolonial masters who were still the ones pulling the triggers in the event’s localisation. The discourses proposed were pleasant and apolitical and definitely not what Africa needs at the moment. It was simply ethics by the French government to seduce a younger generation of African leaders.
Africa needs a new structurisation in the educational system which is influenced by historical coloniality. Coloniality can be traced in education through the reproduction of knowledges that continues to justify European and white de facto supremacy and renders colonised peoples` knowledges and livelihoods backwards, inferior or non-existent. There's a whole lot of deconstruction to be done in the way knowledge is sought and dispersed for stronger foundations to be pinned on the continent. When Savvy Contemporary contacted us in 2020 to be part of the laboratories for The Phoenix To Find Its Form in Us:On Restitution, Rehabilitation and Reparation, the team had a mind-boggling situation at hand. The Rue des chefferies sponsored by LFD (Agent France de Development) was planning the deposession and exportation of artifacts/ spiritual subjects from the western highlands of Cameroon. We felt powerless, the authorities were strongly behind this move and cooperating with the French institutes to have these objects exhibited at the Quai Branly in Paris. Over 250 artifacts were expropriated from their sacred places to be exposed overseas.
The alarm bells were loud enough, so we decided to create a school and we named it The Raining Season School in reference to the period/season we were in. The Raining Season School leitmotif was to unlearn perceptions and knowledge relegated by colonial powers. We had to embrace our africanity and sciences for that we figured out the mentors who could transmit this knowledge by programming in person and online workshops. The school consisted of 5 students who were selected through an open call published online. We opted for unconventional teaching where invited guests shared their experiences and their practices. We had in total 8 guests , 5 of them carryout person to person mentorship with the students.
Hervé Yamguen, an artist notably versed with African spirituality, questioned our intentions « Que vas-tu faire au village »(What to do in the village). His intention was to clear the preconceptions nurtured in our minds by western heritage (christianity and education) about the evil nature of the village and ancestral practices of healing and cleansing. The guilty truth is that we went to the village fearing the village priest, avoiding the oldest people in the villages who have been branded witches by brainwashed christians. We went to the village to go to church, we avoided the streams and lakes and the forest branded evil. How then could we learn about medicinal plants, local techniques of transporting food from place to place with the aid of a sling and basket, how do we learn about our languages, food and local codes of hospitality and fraternity? Hervé Yamguen gave us the urge to visit the village and the opportunity to witness the highly secretive KOU-GANG secret society of the Bamileke people. The ceremony was an initiation ceremony of a new member with the right of inheritance because of his family partenance to this secret society. The Kou-Gang's function is to secure the protection of the territory. The secret society consists of men essentially considered as guardians of the visible and invisible. We were very elated to see a woman, tall and fierce, glade majestically in locally twinned clothes amongst the long group of men dancing and chanting in a circle. It was easy to recognise her, she was the only one amongst them without a mask. Yamguen informed us that she is there because she is a “MKamsi” , a seeyer from the lineage of a Koungang member and that won her the right into the group. We all thought it was fantastic; the power dynamics and geopolitics functions of intercession and protection that was executed by this group. The sense of belonging and meaning that was exulted in this moment was awakening. Dr. Ndikung, talking about african spirituality, enriched this by saying that “with the colonial enterprise, what happens is an incredible limitation of understanding what is animate and what is inanimate. The battleground is in that darmacation.”.
Dr. Michel Feugain, Director of Languages and writer took us through the epistemological approaches of the notions of Restitution, Rehabilitation and Reparation. In sum, the things to repair are our identity, our dignity and human rights. In Cameroon there is a dire need to restore our languages and rehabilitate our educational system and humanity. Clément Kamguia the founder of Baham Bird, a home museum, a futuristic architectural work by Cameroons artist and architect Jules Wokam, built on top of rocks that seem to grow from the ground. That's the particularity of Baham, home to one of the most spiritual spaces where rites and rituals are performed by pilgrims of all denominations in the space known as La Grotte Sacre de Fovu, where the royal palace intercedes with the gods. The vast field of granite rocks extends over approximately 15 hectares and offers natural shelters conducive to the various ritual practices. Kamguia’s home museum is a representation of “la chefferie” ; the artworks all represent the physical and spiritual nature of the Bantu Chiefdoms. The place is an ecological haven with birds and trees free to live. Clement Kamguia is all about the restoration of our humanity, everything is in our actions.
Kwasi Oyene-Ayeh gave us a discourse on contingency as it relates to art. Art in all its diversity and elusiveness. In the village we could perceive this with our eyes and mind, art was indeed everywhere from the woman beading wooden statues to the one sneating the traditional Ndop fabric that was initially worn exclusively by royalty. Art was depicted in the architecture; houses designed with Bamboos, others built from mud bricks, plants instead of fences were used to demarcate one compound to the other. In Baham we met Pere Joseph an elderly man who used charcoal to inscribe messages on bamboo sticks, burn them on a rock, and send messages to the universe. That was his way to communion with God. In the village, the true meaning of art as a basic need is exemplified.
Anna Tje showed us the way to get over the inbetween in "African Futurities and Spaces of Celebration, Thinking about repair in the in-between"- « Futurités africaines et espaces de réjouissances, Penser la réparation dans l'entre-deux » Anna’s zeal to know more about her grandmother whose story she discovered in a book boosted her curiosity to embrace her africanness and show others ways to do it through her artistic practices.
Pierre Christophe Ngann, a photographer and designer shared with us his work on Thomas Sankara, a scientific research using photography and design to narrate the rise and fall of a great thinker and visionary
« Mémoire collective et mémoire patrimoniale. L'art comme garant témoin de l'identité du groupe.”
Pierre Christophe in his work demonstrated how to restitute the truth through research work and photographic interpretation. The gorgeous mix of photography and digital design expressed the visionary man Sankara and treason from his friend and the links to the catholic church and the freemasons.The way forward is for Africans to investigate history and tell their own stories.
Politologist and writer Françoise Vergès in her communication, "Réparation et Emancipation” spoke about how artistic practices contribute to Reparation and Emancipation. There's a reparation to be done of the things of the past, the present and the future. Practices like extraction, expropriation and exploitation are issues that artists need to question in their work because those are the imperialist actions that have underdeveloped Africa. How do we repair such practices that are still going on? There's a need for us as artists to reeducate our senses of touch and reasoning, remove the obstacles that prevent us from acting as a community and family. We must repair by bringing to light African problems via poetry, music, paintings, spoken words, architecture, performances, writing and discourses.
Aude Christel Mgba, art historian and curator, in her discourse spoke about the Urgency of translating our ancestral knowledge. Art schools in Cameroon are formatted on western philosophies whereas African culture has structures that need to be translated into writing, alphabets. Cameroon has writings like the Bamum and Beti scripts that need to be used nationally to create a sense of community. We visited the ethnographic museum of the Forest people - Fang Beti located in Yaounde and we were marveled by the work put together by Dr. Therese Fouda. The Museum is a rich representation of the ancestral culture of the Beti. It is rich in objects and histories. The Beti script inscribed on a glass wall was translated from body tattoos that the ancestors had on their bodies to identify groups and appartenances in society. As thinkers we should inquire about our philosophies and their representation on what is African arts. Professor Narcisee Tchandeu through a revisitation of “traditional forms” spaces of art creation in some West African tribes called on the art students and artists to carry out research to disseminate this knowledges.
Going to the village as part of the unlearning process has activated our sensibility on our culture and its representation in our various practices. The answer to change lies in the bedrock of our ancestral culture.
Participants of the Raining Season School
Wilfred Mbida - Les héritiers des Vons (Painting)
Dieudonné Njiela Kamga– Our Wishes (Painting)
Emmanual Asafor - "Africa is Not For Sale" (Poetry)
Ladzifah Nzangou - Réconciliation (Design and photography)
Landry Nguetsa - QUE LA PAIX SOIT AVEC VOUS. (Performance)
Chantal Edie & Zacharie Ngnogue - (Film) Ndàb Cchum (Tell your stories)
The Raining Season school workshops. Carried by 9 mentors:
The Quivering Tree, The Murmuring Rain. Zoom communication by Dr. Bonaventure Bejeng Soh Ndikung
06/12/2021 Raining Season School- The Forest Creative Loft.
2022-02-03 10.31.35 l URGENCE DE PROCESSUS DE TRADUCTION DE SAVOIRS ANCESTRAUX par Aude Christel MGBA
2021-12-01 10.16.02 _Réparation et Émancipation_ par Françoise Vergès2
2021-11-12 10.20.44 « Memoire collective et memoire patrimoniale. L'art comme garant_temoin de l'identite du groupe. » avec Pierre Christophe Gam
2021-11-03 14.13.18 _Restitution, Réparation, Réhabilitation_ en question avec le Dr. Michel Feugain
2021-08-17 14.01.50 _Art and Contingency_ par Kwessi Ohene-Ayeh
2021-08-17 09.58.11 _ Que vas tu faire au village _ _ Par Hervé Yamguen
2021-08-16 14.24.19 _Futurités africaines et espaces de réjouissances, Penser la réparation dans l'entre-deux_ avec Anna Tje
2021-08-16 10.17.28 _art africain, éducation intégrée et programmes occidentaux par le Dr. Narcisse Tchandeu
Public Conference on The NGONSO by Sylvie Njobati and Warren Lee Nsoseka
The Raining Season School is a laboratory conceived By Aude Christel Mgba, Kwasi Oyene-Ayeh and Chantal Edie & Zacharie Ngnogue for the Phoenix To Find Its Form In Us: On Restitution, Rehabilitation and Reparation. The Project is initiated by Savvy contemporary and Funded By the German Cultural Fund Kulturestflung Des Bundes