By Shout-Africa Cameroon correspondent – The stories of diverse cultures are being told in masks and puppets as the eighth edition of the festival goes underway in Douala.
The eighth International Festival of Masks and Puppetry (marionette), to run from November 15-19, opened in Douala Tuesday. The world of masks and puppets as it was at the French Cultural Centre November 15 was a crazy one, consisting mainly of curious onlookers.
The object of curiosity was nothing more than a stage performance of masked men and women telling the story of entry into Cameroon with and without a visa and the United Nations position on the matter.
As the festival holds, the dramatists and comedians offered an unusual spectacle as it portrayed an aspect of Cameroon culture with the masks telling the story. “I find them quite clever and original, it’s just beautiful,” exclaimed the young man who came from Congo Brazzaville, preferred to be called “Mask”.
“The organization of the International Meeting of Cameroon Masks and Puppets (RIMAC) is an opportunity for many artists to exhibit their talents, but also to make many useful contacts.” said Marie-Hélène Kemayou, a member of RIMAC. “In addition, we have trained on the making of puppets and masks”, continues the artist obviously very pleased with the knowledge acquired.
Cultur’Ac Network President, André Bang, denounces the stigma faced by artists: “The people around us consider our passion as a lost time; they do not always see that masks and marionettes are a good way to tell a story, and you cannot do that without meeting custodians of tradition. It’s an interesting research. I like that.”
Officially opening the ceremony, Oumarou Mana Madi, Littoral Culture Delegate, congratulated the initiative of RIMAC promoters noting especially that doors will soon be open for government financial support. He also expressed the hope that artists are valued, as well as the festival, through masks and puppets, which reflect our daily lives.
The objective is to create, promote and diffuse the spectacle of masks and puppets in Cameroon and to let the public know that masks are not jujus conveying fear. Didier Nyoumi, Programme Officer, explained that masks and puppets are objects that convey essential lessons to the public, lessons which are important for younger generations to appropriate; reasons why the festival will be organized around many schools in Douala and Buea.
The festival will showcase masks and puppets, take people to certain places where their professionals work, present such professionals from Europe and other countries of Africa, carry out a 10-kilometre excursion and a carnival in Buea where competitors will also write and give contemporary descriptions to the art objects, encourage permanent innovation and research on the art, share information on mask and puppet events across the globe, hold intercultural exchanges, meet writers and designers of mask and puppet texts, as well as mask comedians.
Attended by participants from Mali, Benin, Chad, France, RD Congo, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, and Cameroon, the goal is to provide a framework of creativity and research, and tourism.
RIMAC is a cultural association that was created in 2004 in the economic capital of Cameroon, Douala, where it is currently headquartered. RIMAC organized every year a mask and marionette festival which showcases the cultural diversity from all the 10 regions of Cameroon in addition to those of some African and European countries.