Day 2 - Memories, Emotions, and Celebrations

Our second day in Cameroon can be encapsulated in just a few words: memories, emotions, and celebrations.

The first stop we had was to participate in a traditional Ngondo ceremony that was held by various chiefs from Douala. What made this ceremony monumental was the fact that it had already been held in Cameroon, and that it was re done again just for our group. To add, we were told that this usually only happens when heads of state from other countries come. Many in our group were brought to tears as it was definitely seen as a rite of passage for us. Pictures were not allowed to be taken during the ceremony as it is viewed as sacred. As with yesterday, we shook the hand of every chief and leader.

Press waiting for us outside of the Ngondo ceremony

During the ceremony, the chiefs said a prayer of protection over our group. We were told that if it rained after the ceremony was over, it was viewed as though God had answered the prayer. Keep in mind, that this is the dry season in Cameroon. To our surprise, IT RAINED! All of us were shocked but felt blessed by the sign. As with the previous day, we were all received with love and all the leaders and locals expressed how grateful they were that we came and that they hoped to see us again.

From there, we then took a two hour drive to Limbe, which was formally known as Victoria (after Queen Victoria; during British rule in the area) The road we took was in very good condition and our guides told us about the several plantations that exist in the the areas we drove through, such as banana, rubber, and palm tree plantations.

Kim, Gina, and Regina reading a map of Cameroon

It must be said that it has been unusual for most of us to travel by motorcade. No matter the place we go, we have armed security and a motorcade. Because of this, the locals often wave to us along the roadside.

Once we arrived in Limbe, an official greeting was given to the mayor by our group leaders. Then, we took a drive to Bimbia. We were surprised, yet again, as during our arrival, there was a band playing "When the Saints Go Marching In." Jean lead a second line into our meeting facility while the band played.


Then, the locals drove us all, by 4 wheel drive, up a steep, unpaved mountain to where more festivities were to be held. We were greeted by more dancers and music and a short program about the slave port we were going to travel to.


Brigitte and Septeena watching the festivities


In order to get the port, we had to travel through what appeared to be a rain forest with beautiful bamboo and trees all over. It seemed to be about a 2 mile walk. Our guides told us that many people in Cameroon don't know about the port and that very few had even seen it. We were also told that we were the first group to be photographed at the port.

Once we got to the port, there was a reenactment done so that we could gain context on the operations of the port and how slaves were shuttled in and out. It was EXTREMELY emotional. When I approached one of the "slaves," I felt like I had to wipe his brow because he couldn't do it himself because he was chained up. I hugged another one of the "slaves," and she cried in my arms and apologized over and over again about what her ancestors had done to mine.

At the end of the reenactment, we were lead to the location where the slaves were loaded onto ships that sailed out on the Atlantic Ocean. It was amazing to see a sea of people, both descendants of the formerly enslaved Cameroonian and those whose ancestors may have sold them into slavery. One of the chiefs got up and gave a moving apology to all of us. He said that his ancestors should have been able to stand up against gun powder if it meant losing so many of us to the horrible Middle Passage.


Trash on the shores of the Bimbia Slave Port

After that emotional experience, we headed back to a previous location for dinner, music, and dancing. That was followed by a drive back to Douala where we were able to see the "White House of Cameroon." This awesome house is owned by James Onibobo (sp) and is countless thousands of square feet. His daughter gave us a tour of the home which included a wonderful rooftop visit where were got to see some of Douala from higher up.

Tomorrow we have a long drive ahead of us as we head to Baofassaum.

The dome ceiling at "The White House"

Brigitte, Regina, Brenda, and Jean on the way to Bimbia


Beacon for Men said…
I have 2 comments. Jean leading the 2nd line is hilarious!!! I know she was dancing hard and sweating all over the place. :) I know this had to be emotional. I can't even imagine the apology to you guys about us being enslaved. WOW!!
Mavis said…
What an amazing experience. I was moved by the pictures alone.
Anonymous said…
James Onobiono, you mean.

Awesome experience indeed! Your guide never told you that even in the 1930s and 40s, plantation emissaries from the South West Region still came up to Bamenda to capture young men to go work in the rubber and banana plantations. Parents used to ask their able-bodied sons to seek refuge in the forests and up the hills. Those of us from the North West (Bamenda) and West (Bamilekes) regions are still known to be the most hard working in Cameroon. Till date, some of my cousins still work in cocoa plantations in the South West Region, though in return for cash nowadays. People of South west origin still perceive us as their laborers. They call us 'NGRAFFIS'; a wrong pronunciation of GRASSFIELDERS. This appellation bears a very negative connotation; backward, laborers, good for hard labor etc. Did you notice that there were no Doualas and Bakweris among you? These are the coastal peoples who still consider themselves superior to those inland, and second to the white man.

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