Indigenous group coping with new environment – a case study from Cameroon

Report from Dieudonne Ongbwa, Master in Visual Cultural Studies, University of Tromsø
Project 200601873-23

Financial support for the project: “Between two worlds – A marginalized indigenous group coping with new environment: The Case of Bagyeli from Bipindi in Cameroon”

The research (thesis and film) is on how Bagyeli, one of indigenous ethnic group in Cameroon, is facing the new environment in Bipindi area where they settled for many decades. Bagyeli from Bipindi left the forest despite they still depend on it as they use natural resources. But they are loosing these resources since threes and other forests products are threatened because of exploitation. In their changing situation they meet new ways of living, healing and socializing; a new situation which presents for them many challenges as they do not have tools or competences assigned to it. The main way focussed here is the health, where Bagyeli used to be considered as “specialists”; using threes, barks and…spirits for it. In the new environment this competence is still in use but is affected because of the loosing of healing threes. In addition they meet modernity in the health which demands money for consultation, buying drugs; conditions they can not easily fill since their economical situation is weak. This makes them marginalized because their weakness of their competences towards the new environment.

The research evokes also the relationship between Bagyeli and surrounding populations. Initially gathers, hunters and healers Bagyeli relationship with surrounding people was based on barter. Nowadays these relationships have changed spatially and fundamentally since Bagyeli live in villages with Bantu (other ethnic groups) and their exchanges are on monetary economy. They meet with difficulties for adaptation.

In order to treat the topic I did my fieldwork (from April to August) in a Bagyeli camp in a village named Log Ndiga, located at one kilometre to Bipindi in southern part of Cameroon. My main character is Saro, a sixties Bagyeli man who lives with his family among Bantu. I followed him and his family in their daily activities in order to find out how they cope with the new environment, how they perceive themselves, how they are perceived and what they think is necessary for their adaptation. They need to confirm their identity as they need some competence for their total integration in the new environment.

Sami center grant allowed me to undertake this research among Bagyeli from Bipindi; following my informants in their daily life; conversing with them, filming them and participating in their activities. For it, it was possible for me to get accommodation, food, even some literature and contacts on the research area and elsewhere. The grant permitted me also to take care of my assistants. I want to thank Sami center, Semut and Lånekassen for their support.

About Siri Johnsen

Hovedtillitsvalgt for Akademikerne UiT, Norges arktiske universitet, januar 2006-januar 2017
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