By Tikum Mbah Azonga in Buea
A maiden workshop on culture and arts reporting in the South West Regional Headquarters of Cameroon opens up novel vistas for practitioners in the field and students in the classroom
Something has happened in the Cameroonian arts and culture world recently. A little over a week ago, some stakeholders in the arts and culture journalism sector met for three days here in Buea and came up with what can be regarded as a blueprint for the take off of art and culture reporting courses in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Buea.
A congregation with a difference
The composition of participants was quite appropriate because it consisted of members of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication led by its Head of Department, Henry Muluh and honored by the presence of Prof Enoh Tanjong, the architect of the department and its pioneer. But the professor of mass communication also came to the workshop as the representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University, unavoidably absent. Also present were a fine crop of practising journalists from various news organs, all of them as it were, united by the love for culture and arts reporting and the consensus that if ever that branch of journalism needed a push, it was here and now.
Mirrors of culture
In the invitation letters that went out to participants, the workshop convener, Mwalimu Gorge Ngwane who is the Executive Director of AFRICAphonie, said: “ The main objectives of this workshop are to expose lecturers of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department of the University of Buea to the possibility of introducing art and culture as either a separate or integrated module in their curriculum and to help journalists adopt more innovative ways of approaching coverage in the area of art and culture.” Even before the workshop began, Ngwane had set a cultural tone to things by saying in the letter of invitation: “We recommend that you dress in any cultural wear on Day 1 but AFRICAphonie will provide you with workshop polo shirts and baseball caps for you to wear on Days 2 and 3.” And so true to form, that was how we all turned up.
Orators of sterling worth
The list of speakers was in itself, another bouquet of flowers for culture and arts journalism. There were two main guests, Suzy Bell who is a Founder/Member of the African Arts Journalists Network in South Africa, and Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Journalist and Communications Consultant as well as Programme Coordinator of the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme in Accra, Ghana.
The Cameroonian top brass speakers who joined them included South West Regional Delegate of Communication, Eno Chris Oben, and Professor George Nyamndi who is President of Africa for Africans and who is widely referred to as “Mr. President”, as not only has he run twice for President of Cameroon but he is also girding his loins to run again for the same position this October. Professor Raymond Asombang who is a lecturer of archaeology at the University of Yaounde I was another speaker; so was the South West Regional Delegate of Tourism, Peter Elangwe and Prof Kashim Ibrahim Tala, director of the Centre for African Literature and Cultures and Coordinator of postgraduate programmes in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Buea. Other speakers included Telesphore Mba Bizo, Founder Member of Arterial Network, Cameroon and Dr. Donatus Fai Tangem who is a lecturer of drama and performing arts at the University of Yaounde I. The moderator for the three days was Dr. Cheo Victor Ngu, a lecturer of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Buea.
Defining the modus operandi
The workshop lasted three straight days, each of which was packed full of challenging but exciting activities. In his opening remarks, the organizer, Mwalimu George Ngwane highlighted the importance of culture but regretted that coverage in the media was inadequate. One of the reasons for this, he said, was that the university curriculum does not give arts and culture the weight they deserve. He gave a foretaste of the three-day event by saying that the first day would be devoted to a theoretical overview; Day 2 to the reporting of art and culture and Day 3 to looking at how to include the subject in the curriculum of the University of Buea Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.
For Communication Delegate, Eno Chris Oben, the quality of participants spoke eloquently of the high standards of the workshop. He stressed the importance of art and culture journalism and urged the young journalists and others to take full advantage of the golden opportunity offered by the workshop. The Vice Chancellor`s representative, Prof Enoh Tanjong expressed the wish to see the lessons leaned at the workshop trickle down into the Journalism and Mass Communication curriculum of the University of Buea and urged the department`s journalists there present to ensure that they wrote articles, news stories and did documentaries that would bear witness to the knowledge gained at the event. He said the department`s programme was broad based and flexible and could easily accommodate new programmes.
Now, rise for the resource persons
Speaking on the topic, CULTURE AS IDEAOLOGY, Prof George Nyamndi affirmed that it was time to hoist the African flag of culture at raise it higher, at full mast. He rejected the view held by some observers that the arts and culture should not be taught because they are self evident. According to him, not only should these aspects of society be actually taught, but the organizers of the workshop should have been more assertive in their programme content by going the full length and talking about culture being “life lived”, “muscles flexed” and “the brain activated”. Citing the ideological aphorism that, “everybody is alive but only those in control live”, Prof Nyamndi citing telling examples of ideological icons such as vodka for the Russians, NASA for the Americans, and the MIG for the French, as well as Toyota for the Japanese and the Rolls Royce for the British. He argued that culture which he presented as a “set of ideas constituting ones goals, expectations and actions, not someone else`s”, is related to ideology, which he said was in turn :subjective”. As a result, he said, Africans must write their own history because if it is left to Europeans, they will write it from their own view point. ‘We must know who we are and be convinced that our existence has its own validity”, he opined.
(TO BE CONTINUED)