How does the traveller see it?
(Fragment of a post from a Facebook page)
Who’s gonna get married?
I purchased this painting in Cameroon in February of 2020. I was struck by its controversial nature, as well as by the contrast between the clearly Muslim-style clothing on the musicians and the bare-breasted dancing women. I hope Facebook doesn’t ban me for posting topless content; after all, it’s not a photo. When I bought the painting in Douala, I wasn’t able to speak with the artist, and I thus had to conduct an investigation involving guides across all of Cameroon. In addition to the painting itself, I had the name of the artist, Bakilo, and his phone number on the back of the canvas. He doesn’t have WhatsApp or various other wonders of the civilized world. In Cameroon, English and French-speaking colonial protégés (eg. Ambazonia) are fighting a war for the right to speak English. Despite this, the author of the painting, like most of the population, speaks only his own language – one of about 250 in Cameroon.
From a translation of his words: The dancing women are brides, putting all their beauty on display. The best of them will no doubt find a husband. The judge of this contest – ie., the groom – is not depicted, but he sits near and watches the dancing. The choice is his. If he’s a man of wealth, he might take two of them to be his wives, maybe three or even all four.
I can personally add that in North Cameroon, I saw a man who had 150 wives!
With regard to the tribe in question, there were three suggestions: the Dowayo, Bakole and Fali peoples. I’ve settled on the Fali. Fulani Muslims call them “Kirdi”, which is a pejorative for people who don’t accept Islam; this explains the dissonance in clothing. Some sources claim that the word “Kirdi” is warped form of the Arabic for “monkey”. For centuries, the Fali have been fighting with Fulani Jihadists, and they are known for their love of life and joyous dancing. Which one of these brides is going to get married?