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Cultural life of Cameroon

Each of Cameroon's ethnic groups has its own unique cultural forms. Typical celebrations include births, deaths, plantings, harvests, and religious rituals. Seven national holidays are observed throughout the year, and movable holidays include the Christian holy days of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, and Ascension; and the Muslim holy days of 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-Adha, and Eid Milad Nnabi.


The country has an estimated 250 ethnic groups that can be divided into broad regional-cultural groups. In the south of the country, there are the Bantu-speaking groups, which include the Fang, Duala, Basa, and Pygmies, known officially as Bakas.

In the plateaus of the west and northwest, are groups that speak semi-Bantu languages and are sometimes referred to as highlanders or grassfielders. The north is inhabited by mainly Sudanic-speaking Muslim people. The biggest ethnic group represented there are the Fulani.

The two English administrative regions of Cameroon are the North-West and South-West provinces.

Music and dance are an integral part of Cameroonian ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings, and storytelling. Traditional dances are highly choreographed and separate men and women or forbid participation by one sex altogether. The goals of dances range from pure entertainment to religious devotion. Traditionally, music is transmitted orally. In a typical performance, a chorus of singers echoes a soloist.

Musical accompaniment may be as simple as clapping hands and stomping feet, but traditional instruments include bells worn by dancers, clappers, drums and talking drums, flutes, horns, rattles, scrapers, stringed instruments, whistles, and xylophones; the exact combination varies with ethnic group and region. Some performers sing complete songs by themselves, accompanied by a harplike instrument.

Popular music styles include ambasse bey of the coast, assiko of the Bassa, mangambeu of the Bangangte, and tsamassi of the Bamileke. Nigerian music has influenced Anglophone Cameroonian performers, and Prince Nico Mbarga's highlife hit "Sweet Mother" is the top-selling African record in history.

The two most popular styles are makossa and bikutsi. Makossa developed in Douala and mixes folk music, highlife, soul, and Congo music. Performers such as Manu Dibango, Francis Bebey, Moni Bilé, and Petit-Pays popularised the style worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s. Bikutsi originated as war music among the Ewondo. Artists such as Anne-Marie Nzié developed it into a popular dance music beginning in the 1940s, and performers such as Mama Ohandja and Les Têtes Brulées popularised it internationally during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Traditional arts and crafts are practiced throughout the country for commercial, decorative, and religious purposes. Woodcarvings and sculptures are especially common. The high-quality clay of the western highlands is suitable for pottery and ceramics. Other crafts include basket weaving, beadworking, brass and bronze working, calabash carving and painting, embroidery, and leather working.

Traditional housing styles make use of locally available materials and vary from temporary wood-and-leaf shelters of nomadic Mbororo to the rectangular mud-and-thatch homes of southern peoples. Dwellings made from materials such as cement and tin are increasingly common.

Cameroonian literature and film have concentrated on both European and African themes. Colonial-era writers such as Louis-Marie Pouka and Sankie Maimo were educated by European missionary societies and advocated assimilation into European culture as the means to bring Cameroon into the modern world.

After World War II, writers such as Mongo Beti and Ferdinand Oyono analysed and criticised colonialism and rejected assimilation. Shortly after independence, filmmakers such as Jean-Paul Ngassa and Thérèse Sita-Bella explored similar themes. In the 1960s, Mongo Beti and other writers explored post-colonialism, problems of African development, and the recovery of African identity.

Meanwhile, in the mid-1970s, filmmakers such as Jean-Pierre Dikongué Pipa and Daniel Kamwa dealt with the conflicts between traditional and post-colonial society. Literature and films during the next two decades concentrated more on wholly Cameroonian themes.

National policy strongly advocates sport in all forms. Traditional sports include canoe racing and wrestling, and several hundred runners participate in the 40 km (24.8 mi) Mount Cameroon Race of Hope each year.

Cameroon is one of the few tropical countries to have competed in the Winter Olympics. However, sport in Cameroon is dominated by football (soccer). Amateur football clubs abound, organised along ethnic lines or under corporate sponsors.

The Cameroon national football team has been one of the most successful in the world since its strong showing in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Cameroon has won four African Cup of Nations titles and the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics.

Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and traditional beliefs are each practiced by about a quarter of the population.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009