USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Cameroon’
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Old Wives Tale on Homosexuality

My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.

 

“As a child I knew nothing about homosexuality…but there was an old wives tale I was told that, if a woman was raped by another woman, it would render the victim barren. The victim would usually dream about the encounter and the perpetrator would be confronted by village elders and be chastised.”

 

Analysis: Cameroon is a country that has deeply rooted beliefs and traditions, among these is the belief that people should not engage in relations with someone of the same sex. The importance that is placed on women to be child bearers and bring about heirs is part of the reason that there is so much stigma placed upon same-sex relations. Barrenness would be an ultimate punishment for a woman because her utmost purpose within that society is to give birth to a male heir. This belief further sets the societal framework for Cameroon and Cameroonian culture by making it very clear that homosexuality is not tolerated in society or by nature (as the female victim would mysteriously become barren after the rape).

 

Proverbs

Only A Stupid Child Falls More Than Once at the Door

My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.

 

“Most of the houses have entrance doors that are raised. There are no accommodations for the less able….everyone is expected to get in and out. If you fall or trip once, you should remember the next time you approach the door. If you miss again, you will be considered incompetent.”

 

Analysis: This proverb is essentially one that states that you should learn from your mistakes and from past experiences. If you trip once at the door, an intelligent person would remember the next time they encounter it, whereas a person who is oblivious will trip again because they did not pay attention the first time. Though the proverb can be applied to all situations where people fail to learn from their mistakes, the use of the word child implies that the person who is hearing the proverb—regardless of age—is acting like one. It exemplifies the expectation in the Cameroonian community to learn from your mistakes and take care not to make them again.

 

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Cameroonian Views on Femininity

My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.

“In my culture it is believed that a woman who has no children is considered wicked, a man, and worthless. If she is married and childless, she will be divorced and asked to return her dowry to her husband. From what we know today, infertility could be from the man. Yet, yet all the blame goes to the woman, but back then, it was only the woman. The belief is that the wickedness comes in because gods would not bless a bad person and children, children are the most cherished gift to a women. So she would be shown without a child and no man is supposed to love a woman who could produce no heir. Next to a woman without children is one who has only one child—especially if it is a girl child—or has all girls. Women are blamed for not being able to produce an heir since most believe that only the boys should inherit the family s fortune. The irony here, is that, these same people who prefer boys stand to benefit when a girl gets married through the bride price and dowry.”

 

Analysis: My informant learned these cultural beliefs from relatives and extended family while living in Cameroon. This piece of cultural knowledge gives a very clear picture of the gender lines and distinctions within Cameroonian culture. From even this small amount of verbal exchange the listener gets an immediate and clear understanding that Cameroon is a patriarchal country that places incredible pressure on the women to live up to the standards of men. It is also interesting to note that in many cases after having moved from Cameroon to America these beliefs do not hold as much weight. My informant’s daughter, who is a close friend of mine, acknowledges her cultural beliefs, but does not hold the belief that the importance of women should be placed underneath that of a man. This gives the impression that cultural folklore has a much stronger meaning when the folklore is being spread in an area where the majority of people hold those same beliefs.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cameroonian Pregnancy Rituals & Beliefs

My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.

“A pregnant woman would, should…at all cost avoid seeing what she would consider as ugly until the gives birth. The fear, is that uh, her baby will become ugly if she does. It is also believed that if she eats a cobra before giving birth that it will speed the delivery of the baby. Again, this—cobra—is a delicacy usually reserved for only, for only the men. If you have not realized it yet, my people in every way see women as less than equal to men. A good woman is supposed to be behind her husband. He must have the last word, she must sleep behind him, she must please him at all cost. This is of course…changing with the access to higher education and influence of western culture. Divorce rates are soaring and more women are opting to marry later, not get married, and not have children…husbands are even blamed when their wives are troublesome because they cannot control her!”

 

Analysis: This belief illuminates the importance of beauty within Cameroonian culture. Especially in the case of the birth being a girl, it would be desired for her to be beautiful so she could marry a wealthy and handsome husband. In addition, the allowance of women to consume cobra during pregnancy demonstrates that women who are bearing children are considered of a higher status than women who are not, because they are allowed to eat foods that are typically reserved only for men (who are looked at with more respect within Cameroonian society). My informant made a point of reiterating that men in their society are more highly valued than women, however also made note that within the western world these beliefs have lost value due to women in the United States being able to attend school and support themselves without a husband. Of course there are communities and families who still adhere strictly to these beliefs even though they live in a western nation such as America.

 

 

[geolocation]