7.17.2014

Creating Art from Nature

Remy with his Guitar 
If I were to write an excerpt for a travel guide on Lomié, besides recommending a camping trip into the rainforest and a visit to a Baka encampment, the third thing I would recommend is a trip to my friend Yacouba’s workshop, where he constantly is making some form of art (bamboo mugs, furniture, incense holders, decorative wine holders - you name it!). Lomié can be tiresome a lot of the time, but at Yacouba’s I know I can find a bit of peace, even if that means silently watching as he weaves rattan to make a sofa.

I never thought I’d be, but I am a converted African art and architecture buff. I’ve always liked art, but a series of college courses on African art and architecture by the best professor around (hey, Dr. DeLancey!) began my now endless hunger for seeking out African art and architecture. Since Lomié was a former German colonial outpost, it has several German and French colonial-style buildings from the 19th and early 20th century, which add quite a bit of character to the village. But if its art you are looking for, the person to see is my friend and work partner, Yacouba Ousmanou Njoundiyimoun (say that three times fast!).

Yacouba started an organization a few months ago for the preservation of Baka and Bantu art and culture through which he seeks to promote traditional art and culture in order to grow tourism. He also works with the Baka to use their art to raise their standard of living. While Yacouba mainly works with rattan and bamboo, he is expanding his horizons and now working with a Baka apprentice named Remy who deals with traditional wooden art. Yacouba gets all his materials in and around Lomié, and all of his rattan he gets from the Pollidor Baka encampment, and last week I went with him as he picked up his ‘order’.
Yacouba with the Governor's 'Throne'
(Unfinished) and Staff

A few weeks ago the governor of the East region came to Lomié as part of his East region tour. He gave a speech about how the village will never develop unless people start working together (preach!) before he headed off to Messok and Ngoila. Yacouba thought it would be nice to surprise the governor with some presents, so he built a huge rattan throne and had Remy make the governor a wooden staff and a small wooden lion. The governor was so surprised and loved receiving some parts of our local culture.

Yacouba made all the furniture in my house from rattan, and now I think of my house as my own little art museum. Furniture which would cost thousands in the States cost me a mere few hundred. He has Carlos, a man who lives at the Adjela encampment, make wicker baskets, and Remy makes everything from wood. Yacouba always is busy making a million things and he works from 6am to midnight…every day! Last week I went to visit Yacouba, Remy, and Carlos (who was snoring on the couch that Yacouba was working on weaving). Remy had just finished making a traditional Baka guitar from wood and scraps found alongside the road. I asked Remy if he could play, and in response he blushed and said no. Yacouba begged to differ and he shoved the guitar in Remy’s arms. Remy began to play this simple guitar made from bits and scraps and sang along. It was beautiful! Yacouba and I sat and listened for a good 10 minutes as Remy strummed and sang away. It was a wonderful escape from the stresses of life in Lomié and it was such a lovely insight into Baka culture.
Always Balancing 100 Things. My Bookshelf and Nightstand are Somewhere Under There...

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