Photographer's Note

As introduced yesterday, a great annual festival took place in Douala this week-end. It is called the Ngondo festival and it gathers all the Sawa people (people from the Atlantic coast).

Many events have been surrounding this animist celebration dedicated to the "Jengu" or "Ondine", the gods from the Wouri river : dances from each tribes of the City, traditional fighting, a traditional Miss election, etc...

The climax of the celebration occured this morning when hundreds of thousand people are gathering to the river banks to watch the elected diver disappear under the water for 5 to 10 minutes (don't ask me how...) to collect the message from the ancestors in a large basket and bring it to the traditional chieves of Douala who will translate it to normal Human Being. According to the message collected in the sacred basket, the ancestor told the chieves to find a way to work closer in peace in 2007.

According to what I understood (since the border between people, tribes, villages and suburbs are really complex), the chieves are ruling a local community. Each of them is protected by a kind of honorific guard during special events like this one and is living in a large house with a dedicated place to welcome ceremonies or visitors.

For instance, I met earlier in the morning, René Douala Manga Bell, prince of Bali, one of the many suburb in Douala downtown. I also discovered that Prince Manga Bell had a palace located in Douala itself and ornated with many symbols (lions, crocodiles, a kind of magic key, etc...). Each suburb has a kind of traditional chief getting his power from his father.

Like the one presented this morning, this character dressed with some Wouri grass is part of the official guard keeping the diver presented yeasterday safe. They really embody the ancient traditionnal spirit of this event.

The Sawa people originally set up the Ngondo general assembly of the different people from the littoral to ensure peace between the different components of the people. Among other purposes, the Ngondo was an opportunity to make justice. For instance, the "Deido" (one suburb of Douala) prince Eyum Ebele was sentenced to death in 1876. Ndumbe Lobe, the king ruling over the "Bell" suburb was also judged for having locked a women. That assembly was forbiden at several occasion during the German colonisation, the French one, then under the first Independant Cameroon President Ahidjo. This festival of all the Sawa people was restored in 1991.

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Additional Photos by Steven Le Vourc'h (Curioso) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 551 W: 273 N: 1552] (9271)
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