Location: Bambui, Cameroon, Africa
This is a long-term social documentary project commissioned by Reignite Action for Development, a UK Charity working towards supporting rural communities breaking the poverty cycle. The photographs depict the Bambui community, living in the north west of Cameroon, over a five year period.
The tradition of the ‘living dead’ has been handed down through generations. There is a widespread belief in Cameroon that the spirits of the recently dead will remain present until traditional rituals are carried out. Until these rituals take place, misfortunes such as illnesses, deaths, and disasters can come to the family or village.
This is understood as a means of paying back debts which the dead may have incurred. Failure to celebrate rituals may result in ridicule from counterparts. These celebrations revive other aspects of culture such as music, dance, regalia, and food. Since people both revere and fear the dead, everyone wants to give the impression that they passionately care for them.
Mandele is an annual dance festival. Its main objective is to revive the culture of the village. Some weeks before the dance, ritual specialists visit village shrines and sanctuaries to consult the gods and perform sacrifices, asking atonement for past misdeeds before the celebration.
Leaders carry goats, palm wine, and camwood for the sacrifice. On arrival, the goats are slaughtered and blood smeared, palm wine is poured and camwood powder is smeared on the stones and spread over the area.
Guns and musical instruments are assembled, cleaned and oiled. There is a special drum for the occasion. Its sound is unique and carries far away to notify the population of the eventful day. Drumming is accompanied by the sound of flutes and rattles.
Enthronement of a King
The enthronement of a new Fon, or king, brings life to the community. Activities begin with pomp and pageantry, the main activities are feasting, dancing and merry-making. Quarters take turns in the palace for gun-firing, feasting, and dancing.
The new Fon joins in the merriment and visitors come with presents, dancing, and feasting.