Culture of Cameroon

Cameroon has a rich and diverse culture made up of a mix of about 250 indigenous populations and just as many languages and customs. The country is nicknamed “Little Africa” as geographically, Cameroon consists of coastline, mountains, grass plains, forest, rainforest and desert, all of the geographical regions in Africa in one country. This also contributes to its cultural diversity as ways of life and traditional food dishes and traditions very from geographical region to geographical region.

Holidays

Religious holidays in Cameroon include:

  • Christian: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Pentecost, Ascension Thursday and Palm Sunday
  • Muslim: Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha and Ramadan

Major holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1
  • Youth Day, February 11
  • Labor Day, May 1
  • National Day, May 20
  • Assumption, August 15
  • Women’s Day, March 8
  • Christmas, December 25
  • Teacher’s Day, October 5

Languages

Since the Cameroon was formerly under French and British rule, the official languages are French and English. There are also numerous endemic living languages spoken by the people that reflects the diversity of the country. These languages include the Akoose language, the Gbaya languages, the Fula language, the Gyele language, the Koonzime language, theMundang language, the Ngiemboon language, the Medumba Language, the Ngomala language and the Vengo language. The Vernacular languages from the ethnic groups in Cameroon are well over 200. Some of them are Ewondo, Beti, Bamileke, Duala and Arabic in the North and Far-North regions.

Politics

Since an amendment was added to the Cameroon Constitution in 1992, Cameroon has been a multi-party state, which means there are multiple parties that have the potential to gain power over the government. Cameroon’s first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, was in power from 1960 to 1982. The president holds executive power for seven years, for a maximum of two terms. The president and his cabinet hold the main power at the national level, while at the local level, the prefet and sous-prefet hold the most power. Getting a government position can happen several different ways: Regional background, ethical background, party loyalty, and who you know. The national and local levels have been known to work together, even though they have to deal with their own separate issues from each other.

Religion

Cameroon culture consists of numerous religions including Christianity (about 69%), Islam (about 21%), and many other indigenous religions. The citizens of Cameroon are entitled to freedom of religion, as it is stated within their constitution. Therefore, citizens are free to practice any religion they choose, without harassment or forceful conversion. The northern part of Cameroon is heavily occupied by the Fulani people (Fula: Fulɓe; French: Peul or Peulh; also known Mbororo, though this is sometimes seen as pejorative). The Fulani are mainly Muslims, due to the fact that Islam is the dominant religion in the northern region. The western region is home of the Bamum people, an ethnic group that also practices the Islamic religion. The French-speaking people are often inhabitants of the southern and western regions and the majority of them are known to be Catholic, while English speaking citizens of the west tend to be Protestants.

Traditions and Ethnies

Cameroon has 250-300 distinct groups, and an estimated 300+ languages. Cameroon is divided into several provinces, which are dominated by specific ethnic or religious groups. Ethnic divisions often correspond to geography, which is also widely varied. Religious differences often correspond to colonial or other historical influence.

Partly through the influence of colonialism, there is a national culture, and two distinct regional cultures: the Anglophone and Francophone regions, which primarily speak English and French and use different legal systems. The national culture is established through public institutions such as school, the multiparty political system, shared history of colonialism and a national love of football.

Music & Dance

Music and dance are integral parts of the Cameroonian culture. Almost all occasions and events are accompanied by music. Generally transmitted orally, the general accompaniments are claps or stomping feet. In traditional performances, there is a chorus baking up a soloist, accompanied by traditional instruments like bells, drums, talking drums, flutes, horns, rattles, scrapers, whistles, xylophones and stringed instruments all of which varies from one group to another. In certain cases performers sing by themselves only with a harp-like instrument.

Popular Music Styles are:

•  Makossa of the Douala: This form mixes folk music, highlife, soul and Congo music. The style was popularized in the 70’s and 80’s by Manu Dibango, Francis Bebey, Moni Bilé, and Petit-Pays, while in the mid 80’s Makassi, a softer form was developed by Sam Fan Thomas

•  Bikutsi of the Ewondo: Originated as war music among the Ewondo, it was later developed into popular dance music by Anne-Marie Nzie in the 1940’s. During the 70s, 80, and 90s it was made popular worldwide by artists like Mama Ohandja and Les Têtes Brulées .

•  Ambasse bey of the coast

•  Assiko of the Bassa

•  Mangambou of the Bangangte

•  Tsamassi of the Bamileke

Dance: Over 200 dance forms are found to have developed and thrived in Cameroon. In traditional dances men and women are separated and in some cases participation of any one of the sexes is strictly forbidden. These properly choreographed dances are performed for causes ranging from entertainment to events to religious devotion.

For forest hunter groups like Baka, Medzan and Kola, death is the most important ceremony and they believe that forest spirits participate in death ceremonies by dancing under a ruffia mask.

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