Dance as a window into Cameroonian culture

By Rachel Chaikof
April 10, 2015

Cameroon is a country with a rich culture and unique traditions. Dancing and music comprise a huge part of Cameroonians’ lives, whether at clubs or gathering with neighbors.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, my goal is not only to work collaboratively on projects with my host partners, but also to learn about local culture so I can become integrated into the community and educate my family and friends in the United States and elsewhere about how people in Cameroon truly live.

When my work supervisor told me that his village was going to be hosting cultural festivals and that his wife, who grew up in the same village, could accompany me, I excitedly accepted the invitation to attend.

Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon

And so, two days before New Year’s Day, I took an hour-long journey to Kedjom Keku, a village nestled in the mountains where my supervisor and his wife grew up and where they both still have family members.

Once I arrived, we immediately went to the village chief’s palace, where the festival was taking place.  The primary purpose of these festivals, which normally take place at the end and beginning of the year, is to bring all the residents of the village together to showcase their dances, music and costumes on the lawn of the palace. The festivals teach younger generations about cultural rituals so they can keep traditions alive as the years go by.

Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon

As people stood and watched, dancers formed a huge circle around a handful of musicians playing drums, recorders and other instruments.  Many people were decked out in beautiful traditional costumes, made of black fabric with bright colorful embroideries.  Each outfit is custom-made by local artists and wearers can choose their own designs.

Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon

Spending several hours at the festival wasn’t enough, so I went back later in the week. I want to take every opportunity to soak in moments I wouldn't get to experience back home in the U.S.

Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Cameroon culture dance
Village festival, Cameroon
Rachel Chaikof

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