News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo / Monday, 11 June 2012 20:58
FireTIPTOPSTARS - www facebook com groups tiptopstars members1Nothing has been more instrumental in fading the previous generation than the speedy metamorphosis of the world from the manual to the electronic age. That twist of events is a reality that is hard to counter. Yet, this evolution has left its own sad traces on the exiting generation and to an extent, part of this writer’s (young though) generation. One of such dreaded indelible marks is nostalgia, the kind that disturbs with unrepentant wickedness. Nostalgia for things (people so affectionately got attached to) gradually being erased by the coming of new ones. Some of these new things (not to be proud of anyway) are just the recycled versions of the ones that existed in the past. Or, should we say their creation was inspired by the latter.

We may as well talk about tight-fitted trousers (Americans call it pants) that are spread at the feet. Our parents’ generation called them ‘apagas’. The legendary High Life singer Prince Nico Mbarga (of blessed memory) is known to have valorized this wear during his hit days. But, do you know that more than two-and-the half decades after ‘apagas’ went underground, they have re-surfaced and have become top fashion for contemporary ladies? They are now called a name I deliberately forget because I mourn the ‘apagas’ of the oldies as well.

We may also want to talk about high-heeled boots otherwise known in the days of old as salamanders. Nico Mbarga, the High Life star and author of the timeless and universal Sweet Mother also played the mascot for this brand for olden days shoe dealers in West Africa. Changing times, as usual, swept salamanders away like sea waves. But behold, decades later, they re-emerged and we saw how young girls rushed for them like mad. Some baptized it ‘spice girls’, others called them ‘santiagoes’ and some ‘gagas’. But that was salamander, silenced by the same evolution that borrowed from it to stage a spectacular come-back.

Examples abound. This writer was however inspired to tell the almanac story and tries to establish its relationship with facebook, the new addictive pill. ‘Apagas’ and salamanders only came in to buttress the reason for this write-up. We may get back to them in a subsequent tale.

Those born long after this writer or who grew up with the electronic age would probably not know what almanacs are, let alone ever setting eyes on one. Fortunately, some still hang on palour walls and after reading this piece, you can task yourself to find one, see and touch it. Almanacs are colourfully designed calendars that carry the photographs of members of an organization (office or church staff, members of a group of farmers, cooperative union, etc). An almanac can have up to and even more than a hundred photos that would in most cases be passport size. The photos increase in size depending on your position in the organization/group is. Almanacs usually had the photos of the President of the Republic, the minister of any given department (Agriculture if it was a farmers’ group or cooperative union almanac for instance), that of the Provincial (now Regional) Governor and to an extent the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO of the Division. Every member of the group was obliged to have a copy (either sold or distributed for free as end-of-year ‘cadeau’ {gift}).

Usually the photos are captioned with salient information such as one’s profession, mailing address and telephone contact. In those days fewer people had access to telephone services though. In short, almanacs are a people’s (just like magazine) calendar which celebrate belongingness.

Almanacing” (permit make this a verb) was a typical English-speaking Cameroonian culture. As growing kids, we saw and admired almanacs in virtually all homes in the neighbourhood. The almanac we had at home was the same almanac flying on the wall in the homes of our friends (our parents would usually belong to the same groups). We admired the pictures, memorized the faces, their address, etc. Even when the year rounded off, almanacs would survived as they other calendars were stripped from the wall. Well, they were beautiful (usually printed by the National Printing Press – today defunct) and would beautify the sitting room. Successive almanacs would stay pasted on the wall for as many years as possible, even when our childish tendencies occasionally forced us to use the ball pen in marking the faces on the photos or piercing the eyes. Such acts would however earn you a punishment you’d hate to remember for tampering with the picture calendar.

Almanacs stayed on for quite a while and even during this writer’s university days (late 90s), almanacs produced in the late 70s and 80s could still be found. I remember being offered the gift of a 1987 or so almanac of the Radio Cameroon Sports Service by my role model and journalism mentor Zackary Nkwo during my internship days at CRTV Buea. Once I returned to my hostel room at Molyko that evening, I stamped it on the wall and jealously watched over it. The said almanac had the photos of legendary football commentators Abel Mbengue (now CAF representative in Cameroon), Abed Nego Mesang (of blessed memory), Jean-Marie Watongsi (living in the USA since the 1994 World Cup) Eno Chris Oben (erstwhile CRTV editorialist and now South West regional Delegate of Communication), Joseph Eloundou Ndzie (of blessed memory), Zachary Nkwo himself (as the then sports boss) and others.

Imagine if you come across an old almanac, won’t that be a medium to re-discover or find lost individuals, even if they were long gone? Almanacs displayed faces just like facebook does. Almanac was a community approach initiative, just like facebook is. Almanac meant solidarity – bringing folks together to share one common thing, idea, wealth and what have you.

I don’t want to dare to mention that facebook is born from an idea resembling that of the almanac, but I have still not established any difference at the foundation/base of both initiatives. Didn’t almanacs (as we saw earlier) carry contact addresses and other information just like facebook does?

Facebook may be animated (users communicate instantly) in nature and can engage on a search for long forgotten friends. Facebook can contain a far bigger group (always countless). It can perform several other functions. However, this happens to a greater extent only to the benefit of a contemporary generation of electronic age navigators. Meanwhile, the almanac still has control over the older generation (which we so naturally have a lot of respect for). Those old people (some still living, others gone) are not common on facebook, but can all be traced on almanacs. What a “memoire book” – the almanac! And who says they cannot re-discover or stay in contact (even by just looking at the pictures again and again) with their long-time associates just by going back to look at almanac hanging on the wall?

It’s true some organizations (especially credit unions) still publish almanacs. I’m certain the Presbyterian Communication Department (where I did my second internship) still produces the PCC Almanac as part of its annual activities. But, almanacs produced long before the coming of Internet and facebook are as precious as these put-friends-together 21st century electronic devices. If you come across one, do not dispose of it – send it to me if you can. Or, scan and place it on facebook, it is someone else’s (probably your dad’s) own facebook.


Writer’s Note

signing-paperThis piece is cross-generational. It appeals to people of the past and today’s youths. It is meant to tell a story people may just not bother to think it exists. Until such a story is told, it is hardly considered anything. Yet, there is something telling in it. Users of the Internet or facebook addict may start believing the world revolves around these and you can’t blame them for this. The facebook addictiveness is just as strong as the technology itself. It is absolutely necessary to occasionally take them out of this world, for a while, and let them discover a world apart that existed prior to theirs. Almanac: Yesterday’s Facebook, Today’s By-goneis one in a collection of culture-prone essays by Ernest Kanjo (book) that will be published in the coming months and circulated worldwide.

Briefly About Author

Ernest Kanjo is a six times award-winning journalism practitioner, specialized in art/culture/entertainment reporting. He is known to have reported extensively on the film and music industries in Cameroon. Kanjo is also a poet (owns an unpublished anthology) and editor of one of Cameroon’s leading entertainment portals He had formerly held the same editorial position with Among Youths (AY) magazine (from 2005 to 2009). Prior to becoming AY’s Editor-in-Chief, Kanjo worked as Desk Editor and reporter for The Herald, Cameroon’s all-time leading newspaper in the English language until its disappearance from the newsstand in 2009. He is a pioneering member of the African Arts Journalists Network, AAJN, created in Harare Zimbabwe in April 2010. He is widely travelled and currently lives in Ohio, USA.



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