Friday, April 19, 2013

Dutch dancing to Cameroon dancing

In 1971 left rural Orange City IA (then about 3500 residents) for even more rural Cameroon to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Our training was conducted in the beautiful highlands in the north of West Cameroon, which at the time still had its own Parliament in Buea. Men as well as women dress in colorful clothing, which is most striking during festivals and formal occasions such as the one below. One can see an outer and inner circle dancing. The complete video can be found here on YouTube.

What culturally was most striking for me, having been raised in a Dutch Reformed Church that treats funerals as very solemn occasions, is the way my new world celebrated the memory of the deceased. While living in Cameroon, I attended several of these celebrations that could last as long as a week. The original YouTube post, from which the two clips below are made, provides an informative description of many subtle cultural meanings. What is immediately apparent is how spontaneously individuals, pairs and groups form to express their emotions through dance.

Of course, one of the main motivations of joining Peace Corps for me and so many others is to experience a different cultural world. It underscored for me how one's own frame of reference is limited and how important it is to move out of one's comfort zone for the purpose of increasing international understanding.

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