VISCAM opening in Ngaoundéré (4-9 Dec. 2017)
The VISCAM opening seminar was a refreshing and fruitful intellectual experience. In addition to the 8 professors, 35 young students from both University of Ngaoundéré and University of Maroua
presented their projects, addressing for instance the recycling of garbage, sweet-potato cultivating migrants, Mafa black smiths, ‘bill-bill’ producing women, Moundang food culture and youths faced with insecurity at the shores of Lake Chad. Several films were screened, also the first four films made within the VISCAM framework by the students from University of Maroua that attended courses at the University of Tromsø during the autumn semester 2017. We have with us, a group of clever young students eager to learn.
If we do well, the three collaborating institutions can educate a generation of Visual Anthropologist that can give a very useful contribution to the Cameroonian society.
By applying the crossed regards methodology, where different perspectives can be confronted, as they were in this opening seminar, new and pertinent knowledge can be created. It means that the representations of societies and cultures of Northern Cameroon also need perspectives from Cameroon. As we know, misrepresentations by the ‘the others’ from a solely outside perspective can be harmful. An example are images we sometimes see of Africa in Western media. Dehumanizing representations may have a polarizing effect and may also influence the ways people perceive themselves. On the other hand, representations from within, that are closer to peoples’ own experiences, can be fruitful and useful in many ways.
We are about to either start, as in the case of Ngaoundéré, or develop further, as in the case of Maroua and Tromsø, three programs in Visual Anthropology. They all emerge from the same discipline of Visual Anthropology, but in the light of the above mentioned pitfalls of the orientalist gaze, it is of importance that individual program identities are developed. Today we discuss the differences between the Visual Anthropology programs of Leiden in the Netherlands, Manchester in Britain, Harvard in the US, Gottingen in Germany.
In a not too distant future, we may also talk about the Ngaoundere and the Maroua varieties of Visual Athropology. Together we have a chance to develop Visual Anthropology programs rooted in African realities, not only in terms of our common research focus on livelihoods in Northern Cameroon, but also in the ways these Cameroonian realities are represented both when it comes to content and form. We are aiming for programs at the three universities, with different locally produced identities, that can fruitfully fertilize each other.
When the opening seminar became a successful event, we first and foremost want to thank the organizers. We also want to give credit to the professors present for their constructive comments to all the presentations. The intellectual investments made were impressive. The Rector of the University of Maroua opened the seminar by naming it an intellectual restaurant. It is an excellent metaphor for the event, and also of what we hope will take place in the years to come. We look forward to the next VISCAM workshop organized at the University of Maroua in January 2019.