Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 51

The pirogue race, a high point of the Ngondo ceremony. In addition to being spectacular, it also has a
mystical aspect. © Sébastien Cailleux
The Ngondo (the initiates above) shows the determination of the Sawa peoples to use their cultural
heritage and the aquatic environment of the coast of Cameroon, both of which deserve to be protected.
© Sébastien Cailleux
related to the water divinities. After
these events that honour Sawa culture,
the spectators watch the finals of the
traditional wrestling competition and the
crowning of Miss Ngondo or Ntolè. Elected
the previous day, her main task is that of
helping to educate young Sawa girls.
The interests of coastal people
Although today the Ngondo is considered
to be the Sawa cultural festival, little
is known about its origins. It probably
started around 1830, that is to say before
the first missionaries arrived in Douala in
1843. Initially, the ceremony was held at
the confluence of the river that gave it its
name and the river Bessekè, the former
seat of the Ngondo. It was aimed at
defending the economic interests of the
coastal peoples who could not stand up
to their invaders on an individual basis.
The Ngondo also functioned as a court to
settle internal conflicts.
The holding of the Ngondo has
experienced various disturbances. The
German colonial administration was
concerned about its prerogatives and
suspended it in the 1920s. It only started
again in 1949, with several changes,
under the French colonial administration
and in 1954 its representatives defended
the autonomy of Cameroon at the United
Nations. TheNgondo was forbidden again
in the 1970s and then re-established in
1982 on the arrival of President Paul Biya.
The content evolves and the themes
change each year: ‘Nguinya Mulema’
(The power of courage) in 2009, ‘Titimbe’
(Perseverance) in 2010 and ‘Musango’
(Peace) in 2011. The Ngondo is thus not
outside national realities.
and modernity by adapting the Ngondo to
the changes of our times. The 2010 event
thus included trade fairs, cultural events,
lectures and debates and sports events
(traditional wrestling). There was even a
carnival. Organised in the streets of the
economic capital of Cameroon as a fringe
event, the procession was appreciated by
Cameroonians and foreigners.
Hervé Villard Njiélé
Water - 49
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