‘family tree” is Googled almost 3 million times per month globally.
I grew up in a village called, “Baham,” located in the Western part of Cameroon. When I give my account of life in an African village, most people deductively assume my experiences are characteristic of the entire continent. But this isn’t a wise thing to do. Africa is a huge continent but is unfortunately, rarely referred to as such. Rather, it is usually thought of in comparison to a country, such as America. Instead, one should think of Africa as more of a geographical boundary wherein totally different countries, such as Cameroon exist.
I was born when President Ahmadou Ahidjo was still in power. He had at best not intentionally oppressed the people. Yet with Paul Biya elected in the 80’s, just after I was born, things would really plummet; socially, economically and politically. During that early reign of Paul Biya, my grandmother raised me. She raised me with a stern face that had the gentlest intent to make me stronger. She taught me everything—from gathering firewood to birthing babies and not one day goes by without her wisdom ringing in my ears, even a continent away from where I said goodbye. Here in America, people spend hours and hours researching their family tree and then they actually plot the trunk, the main branches and the little itty bitty limbs to make a beautiful rendition of where their roots have grounded them. Yet I would suspect that if I were to try and come up with something similar, my tree would look more like an ocean of seaweed—with no one, not even Oprah Winfrey, able to find where it begins and ends.
You might find this odd, if you were to consider the extreme importance I and anyone else in Cameroon places on family. Blood is definitely thicker than water there. But it isn’t the traditional blood ties that make up the familial seaweed. Hard-pressed to come untangled, it isn’t a simple blood test that will confirm you are the child of three different men, whom all in the village call you “son.” It is he who, from house to house, emerges as your father at traditional times of grief or procession. It is the one standing behind you because their succession was deemed by the deceased whose power was instead given to you. It is he who claimed you because of your traditional rank yet despised you because of outranking your elders. This is all a very intricate matter of which many wives tales exist here in America. Yet these stories of what seem to be a mythological existence—ring true, only in a more realistic tone of practice and sensation—after having emerged from such a culture, uncivilized, in comparison to the western reality.
- Cameroon’s President signs agreements in Turkey (worldbulletin.net)