Yaah Dr Asheri Kilo Fofung, Lecturer, Performing Arts, University of Yaounde I and Buea and Technical Adviser MINAC, talks on the cultural industry in Cameroon.
How would you analyse artistic productions in Cameroon this year?
Cameroon is improving in its cultural productivities and the role of the Ministry of Arts and Culture is to promote these creative activities. We need to build a proper cultural industry in Cameroon that is why the Ministry of Arts and Culture tries as much as possible to support budding artists as well as those who have already made a name. Cameroonian writers and musicians have been creative but this will depend on individual’s judgment. Creativity is something that is inner and comes through inspiration.
There are many people who are very inspired but it is only the best of their works that comes to the fore and the Ministry of Arts and Culture will always promote the best. The ministry has sponsored book publications that are good, good music as well as painters that are doing good artistic works. The idea is to go for the best. Meanwhile, artists that are still working are encouraged to work because excellence is the goal of the Ministry of Arts and Culture.
Reports indicate that a lot of problems usually come up each time author’s right dues are to be distributed. What is responsible for that and how can the problems be solved definitely?
Artists themselves have fully understood what their rights are. Clearly, they have organized themselves into four guilds which is a good way to get things done correctly. There is the musical artists’ guild, the literature/writers guild, photographers and painters’ artist’s guilds. These associations are supposed to be organised in such a way that each time their arts work is exploited, whoever is exploiting them pays for it. An example is the musical artists’ guild in which TV and radio stations that exploit their works pay an amount of money into their account.
At the end of every quarter, they are supposed to sit and share whatever is available. However, the problem is that the artists themselves are not united enough and have not been able to determine who is who within their creative industry. We cannot compare an artist like Manu Dibango with somebody who just started playing music yesterday. If there is any financial reward given to Manu Dibango, it cannot be same with somebody who started playing music two years ago.
The artists themselves have done some categorisation, but it is for them to follow and respect it strictly. The artists themselves have to be organised. The Ministry of Arts and Culture only supports and guides the artists. There is an organ created by the ministry to control and follow-up what the different guilds are doing while ensuring that when there is financial reward, it is distributed according to the percentages that the artists themselves have agreed upon.
Music has a great role to play as far as culture is concerned. Do you think the songs nowadays from our musicians are still worth the salt?
It is a question of taste. But there are different opinions about what type of music should be played. There are huge verities of music and the audiences are different. People have different taste and ways to appreciate different types of music. But I insist on what is good. What is good has to be technically good. How the sounds come together, what lyrics the musicians are using and how the melody blends with his lyrics and whether or not the public will like.
Talking about the old makossas, they were very good pieces of music. They were played based on our traditional rhythms. But today, there are young people who play just anything and get into all types of controversies. Some of the music’s are even banned. What we want artists to know is that they have to stay within a certain degree of morality and their language has to be acceptable because it is the right of citizens to listen to proper language.
From a cultural stand point, vulgarity and rude languages should not be tolerated in musical productions. We are raised from a culture where seniority is respected; the community is respected as well as values.
What should be done to improve on the lyrics of most musical productions?
The Ministry of Arts and Culture is trying to build the National Institute of Arts and Culture. The pedagogic and technical blocks are already under construction and there is hope that once the decree to set up the structures that will govern the institution is ready, then courses will begin. It is a school where the ministry intend to train artists in all the aspects of arts; music, cinema, theatre, painting and drawing.
Artists will be taught the fundamental of the art. Arts do not happen in vacuum. People get the inspiration but there are fundamentals of getting it beautiful. It is important to note that art is beautiful. If art is not beautiful, then it is not art.
How do you foresee the cultural landscape in the country?
I see that it is going to be a lot more improved. From 2015, we have already accomplished a lot and we hope to accomplish more. At the Ministry of Arts and Culture, we have a three year programme and whatever we started in the last three years; we need to complete it within the next three year. So, we will do a follow-up and continuation of what we are doing. However, the establishment of a concrete cultural industry is very important.
The committees for arts and letters that study the applications of artists who want support from the ministry has been reinstated and there is hope that at the beginning of 2016, files will be studied and support given to the artists. There will be follow-up to ensure that whatever money taken from the government coffers is effectively used to produce results that will be seen and appreciated by the population.
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