Promoting a Culture of Peace between Nkwen and Bamendankwe Communities in Cameroon Through Video for Development
Artistic Community Participation towards Peaceful Coexistence
Diese Studie untersucht die Rolle von Video for Development (VfD) als ein künstlerisches Mittel der Friedensförderung und der kulturellen Nachhaltigkeit in dem Konflikt um Landnutzung zwischen den Gemeinschaften der Nkwen und der Bamendankwe im Nordwesten Kameruns. Um eine friedliche Koexistenz und eine nachhaltige Entwicklung sicherzustellen, sollten Gemeinschaften in einen effektiven und aussagekräftigen Dialog treten, der zusammen mit der Teilhabe daran das Gegenteil der bisherigen top-down-Ansätze darstellt, mit denen bisher versucht wurde, Konflikte um Land zu lösen. Diese Arbeit nutzt neben VfD Gruppendiskussionen, Interviews mit Schlüsselpersonen, Workshops und Sekundärforschung, um die Rolle von VfD für eine friedliche Koexistenz durch gesellschaftliche Teilhabe zu untersuchen. Die neorealistischen Filmtheorien von Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica und Lucchino Visconti sowie Paule Freire´s Theorie über dialogische Pädagogik dienen als theoretischer Rahmen für die Studie.
This study examines the role of Video for Development (VfD) as an art form in promoting peace building and cultural sustainability in the land conflict between Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities in Northwest Cameroon. In order to ensure peaceful coexistence and sustainable development, communities should engage in effective and meaningful dialogue and participation which is contrary to the top-down approaches to resolving land conflicts. This paper uses focus group discussions (FGD), key informant interviews (KII), Video for Development (VfD), workshops and desk reviews to explore the role VfD plays in community participation towards peaceful coexistence. The Neo-realist film theory of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti and Paulo Freire’s Theory on Dialogical Pedagogy are used as theoretical framework for the study.
The focus of this study lies on two communities in conflict over the use and control of their land, and the role of Video for Development (VfD) in the transformation of these communities towards peaceful coexistence and cultural sustainability. The land conflict between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities (neighbouring communities in Bamenda, Northwest Region of Cameroon) has deterred developmental drive and mutual interdependence. The state of affairs significantly influenced the younger generation to live and operate in mutual suspicion and fear. Tradition and cultural practices that necessarily require the unity of both communities have been neglected to the detriment of cultural preservation. The overwhelming need to repair the social chasm as well as jump start sustainable development between and within these communities is not only important but also urgent. The measures taken by stakeholders and traditional authorities to resolve this conflict did not yield much success; efforts such as court injunctions and failed dialogue initiatives between the traditional rulers (referred to as Fons) have failed to settle this dispute due to the fact that it has always been based on top-down approaches which seem unable to resolve the conflict. This is to imply that the communities have not always been inclusively active and participative in the peacebuilding process and this has rather been a driver to the conflict itself thereby preventing sustainable development. Video for Development is therefore used in this study as an alternative approach towards building a culture of peace through community participation in the resolution of the land conflict between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities. It is also used to highlight cultural practices of these communities that are facing near extinction due to the conflict which if reintroduced may help in bringing peace between them. The main questions this paper sets out to answer are: (i.) To what extent is VfD relevant to building a culture of peace between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities in Northwest Cameroon? (ii.) How is dialogue and participation critical to cultural sustainability and peaceful coexistence between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities in Northwest Cameroon? (iii) what are the key cultural practices that can be used for peacebuilding between the two communities in Northwest Cameroon?
The conflict between Nkwen and Bamendakwe Communities in Cameroon
Nkwen and Bamendakwe are both villages in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, belonging to the Ngemba (Nwuswingezi 2011). The Ngemba are a group of people speaking a group of inter-intelligible languages classified as Ngemba, a term coined in the colonial period from the local expression for "that is to say", which is common to these groups, (Vubo and Ngwa 2001). The Ngemba tribe comprises the following villages: Awing, Pinyin, Njong, Akum, Alateneng, Baforchu, Mbei, Baba II and Baligham, Bafut, Bambili, Bambui, Mankon, Mundum, Mankon, Mbatu, Chomba, Mundum, Banja, Nkwen, and Bamendankwe who all speak languages which fall into this category. However, there are differences in dialect. This study focuses on the Ngemba of Nkwen and Bamendankwe, found in the Mezam Division, Bamenda Northwest of Cameroon (Ndeh and Ngeh 2015).
Bamendankwe is located East of the Bamenda town in northwest Cameroon while Nkwen is located North and East of the Bamenda town, northwest Cameroon. They share a common boundary to the East that covers the areas called Sisia III and IV / Nyi – Ntenefor I and II and Achichem. (Achichem is a common shrine used by both communities) which marks the conflict area. In 1939 an administrative decision based on the findings of an Intertribal Boundary Settlement Ordinance of 1933 maintained relative calm between the two communities until 1988 when both started laying claims of the said land and their common shrine. In 2008, the Bamenda Central division was divided in to Bamenda I, II and III Sub-Divisions following the 2007 Presidential Decree no. 2007/115 of the 13/04/2007 (Nkwen and Bamendankwe 2014). This division placed Nkwen under Bamenda III Sub-Division and Bamendankwe as Bamenda I Sub-Division. This also brought disgruntlement between these communities who engaged in several confrontations.
In 2014, the Government of Cameroon intervened by placing an administrative injunction prohibiting both communities from all forms of investments and trespass on the land until the conflict is settled with the boundaries identified but both communities have not respected this order as some still continue with building projects and land sales which has heightened the conflict on both sides. Even as they speak the same language, and share the same culture and tradition, they are fighting over the land and the use of their common shrine.
Qualitative Research Methodology
This paper adopts case study research as a qualitative research methodology. It involved face-to-face encounter with the researcher and the respondents. Since the study was based on studying, understanding, and exchanging knowledge and experiences about a people’s culture and realities, it was therefore of essence that a qualitative approach be implemented because the researcher cannot be separated from the object of study as the two ‘in most cases are a part of a single reality’ (Dyer and Wilkins 1991, p. 613). This method gave the researcher the opportunity to have in-depth studying and understanding of the communities under study through their participation. The researcher made use of key informant interviews (KII), focus group discussions (FGD), VfD workshops and video recording. These tools enabled the researcher to collect both primary and secondary data to ascertain and provide concrete information on the video approach carried out in the communities under study.
Paulo Freire’s Theory of Dialogical Pedagogy
This study is anchored on the Theory of Dialogical Pedagogy which is seen as a tool to empower marginalized communities (Freire 1970). According to Paulo Freire, dialogue is a therapeutic and emancipatory experience, which can result in actual liberation and activism. Drawing from his background as an educator, Freire believes that conscientization is the key to subvert this ‘Culture of Silence’ as he calls it. He defines it as “a process of learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (Mda 1993:45). Authentic participation is a necessary precondition for dialogue to take place (Huber 1999). With dialogue, communities will reach a level of consciousness whereby they become aware of their living conditions and are ready to take decisions and be more proactive. Freire’s concept of learning is not one of hierarchical teaching and information transfer. He suggests a dialogue between scholar and teacher in which they jointly explore new questions and new alternatives (ibid):
The concept of dialogue between teacher and student in search of solution brings the two into a social interaction where both operate from a democratic base of equality that has two principal features: freedom and equal opportunities in social and political life. The teacher and student should work together to solve problems on equal footing, or at least without the teacher claiming absolute knowledge and an authority superior to that of a peasant. This entails people beginning to have a choice among a number of options. The second feature is equality. This implies that, people are fundamentally equal in some respect. (Freire 2005, cited in Idebe 2017:106)
Freire argues that teachers have to refrain from the temptation to treat their knowledge as inherently superior to their audience’s (Hess 1997). They have to accept that other views are equally valid and meaningful as theirs be they their equals or their students. Thus for communication to take place, there must be cooperation among the subject and this can only be through dialogue. This way knowledge will be created through a learning process. This is because dialogue brings people together and makes them reflect on their realities and take necessary actions to either adjust or fix it.
The paper also made use of the Neo-realist approach to film production. Neorealist filmmakers would often hire untrained, nonprofessional actors in secondary, sometimes major roles to capture this sense of realism. They made it a point to never use sets, but rather real settings with real people in the background to further emphasize this effect, portraying the situation, the way they were and not creating/inventing reality, characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class. Indeed, André Bazin, a French film theorist and critic, argued that neorealism portrays: truth, naturalness, authenticity, and is a cinema of duration. Thus, he states, Neorealism is characterized by a general atmosphere of authenticity (Bazin 2005a:24). He suggests that a film should be able to show the essence; which he refers to as “structural depth” and “preexisting relations” by showing reality itself without adding anything.
This study provides a useful opportunity therefore, considering its practical evidences of the functionality of Video for Development as a participatory approach in addressing the land conflict between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities of Northwest Cameroon and in effect building a culture of peace between these communities. It further highlights the actualization of a more inclusive and sustainable approach to peacebuilding processes for communities through artistic approaches. These theoretical perspectives therefore examined the functionality of VfD as a tool for peacebuilding and cultural sustainability through a participatory process with communities. The theories emphasize the perspectives of artistic approaches as VfD towards peacebuilding and denounce the repressive, manipulative and oppressive conditions meted on subaltern communities by hierarchical structures in their society, perspectives that will initiate the peacebuilding process and lead to social cohesion and cultural sustainability.
The Concept of Video for Development in Cameroon
In 1990 Film for Development emerged as a rising genre in Cameroon (Buminang 2008). Bole Butake, a Cameroonian Theatre for Development (TfD) practitioner, in his desire to have another dimension introduced the concept of Film for Development otherwise known as ‘People Cinema,’ (Buminang 2008; Butake 2007; Ngomssi 2013). Butake decided to experiment on other forms/genres that could contribute in the mediation process of the numerous problems faced by the masses. Ngomssi defines this as:
[…] c’est l’usage des films pour la sensibilisation des populations. Un film pour le développement se réclame entant que tel. Un film ne devient pas pour le développement mais il est réalisé dans ce but précis. Bien que des films puissent se trouver une vocation de sensibilisation pour le développement aussi bien par la structure de leurs scenarios que par les themes qu’il sabordent, un film pour le développement est fait intentionnellement. Ce dernier est réalisé dans le but d’expliquer des situations à des personnes qui ne les comprennent que très peu. (Ngomssi 2013:20)
[…] Film for Development is the use of films for public awareness. A Film for Development claims itself as such. A film does not become for development but it is made for that purpose. Although films can be used to raise awareness for development both by the structure of their scenarios and by the themes they cover, a Film for Development is done intentionally. This is done to explain situations to people who understand them very little. (Translation by author)
This genre of cinema is developed from TfD influences. TfD is a combination of theatre methodologies which are linked to social intervention by one or more communities to improve the people’s quality of life. It is theatre for conscientization and empowerment and it is participatory in nature.
Film is a story or event recorded by a camera as a set of moving images produced on celluloid and shown in a cinema. It is a motion or moving picture that can be watched at home or at the theatre. Boussinot (1986:628) says: ‘le film designe evidemment aussi bien la pellicule positive que negative, mais surtout, dans le language courant l’oeuvre cinematographique elle meme’ “film refers to the tape negative as well as positive, but most importantly, in today’s language, to the cinematographic product itself” (translation by author). Film is an important art form, “[…] a source of popular entertainment, and a powerful method for educating or indoctrinating citizens’’ (Buminang 2008). Films are produced by recording actual people and objects with camera(s) or by creating them using animation techniques or special effects. It’s objective is to entertain, educate, enlighten and above all to communicate. Film therefore is an art form with potent conscientization values, a sophisticated, expensive process that requires art directions, fabulous setting, produced on celluloid. As such film production requires more materials and a processing laboratory.
Video on the other hand, has been considered by many as “the ‘poor relative’ of film and television industries and has been perceived as a marginal attempt to compete with commercial networks” (Gumucio-Dagron 2000:56). Video has become increasingly popular due to one primary advantage it has over film: convenience (Ferreira 2006). Unlike film, video does not need to be sent away for processing in a laboratory but can be played back immediately. Also video tapes record sound whereas film requires a separate audio recorder which will be synchronized with the film in a laboratory. In addition, the advent of affordable digital video technologies allows for the production of quality sound and images as well as on-set editing using personal computer editing stations (Burnett 1991; Ferreira 2006). However, some films can be produced and converted to videos. Still the technology of video has improved and is approaching the quality of film.
Based on the aforementioned, Butake’s term “Film for Development” is limited because of the technical demands in making a film, and if Butake uses this term loosely to mean any moving image captured on camera (celluloid) then he problematizes the marked distinctions that exist in the features of a film and those of a video. To this end one needs to look at the capacity to produce a film vis-à-vis same to produce a video (recording), the resources needed and the politics of the different production phases (preproduction, production and post production phases) and their demands. In this study therefore, the term “Video for Development” is proposed and considered more appropriate when engaging a rural population with no technical skills as is the context of this study subject and this researcher. For the ease of production with limited resources video is more relevant and appropriate.
The objective of VfD is primarily focused on the people: The people’s collective will to identify their social problem (in this case land conflict), figure out ways of addressing the resulting issues and proposing and creating scenarios of change that will contribute to the community’s development. VfD lays emphasis on what is being communicated and how the participants work together to understand their problems and seek out solutions. A community-owned product that creates awareness on the potentialities to seek change from an existing situation of conflict to that of peace and cultural sustainability through participatory processes.
As an artistic approach VfD sets an enabling environment for people to begin to voice out their fears; it provides room for them to transform and uplift themselves from aggression and oppression. Film in all its genres, not leaving out VfD builds creative retrospect in people’s minds (Butake 2001). It makes them critically rethink their past and present situations and begin to take operational measures on how to build the future that will best suit their ways of life and their realities.
Generally, two kinds of videos can be distinguished for developmental purposes. The first type is the production of a video about the problems of a community targeted by an external team to this community. The team is usually made up of technicians, the actors and the project coordinators. They identify a problem within a community, write a script and make video with professional actors. The final product is then broadcast on a television channel without the involvement of the target community. This category of VfD is commonly produced in Cameroon and is realized both “[…] sous la forme de spot de sensibilisation que sous la forme de telefilm” (Ngomssi 2013) “[…] as an awareness spot and as a TV movie.” (translation by author).
The second category consists of a video production where project coordinators and technicians visit the target community and select participants. Together they identify and prioritize community issues. Subsequently, and on the methodical bases of TfD, a story is created by improvisation. The participants who are members of the targeted community, become characters in the story and the video is recorded in real settings in the same community. Copies of the video are distributed to participants and in some cases, copies are also distributed to media houses for broadcasting.
Considering the foregoing definitions, we can say that VfD is a concept whose main objective is to encourage the change of mentalities within targeted communities.
It should be noted that the video produced for this study is part of the second category defined above. Without a change in process rather that of terminology VfD follows the processes of TfD and FfD with the addition of some aspects of participatory video, VfD Script and an in-camera record on different actual locations.
Video for Development Process with local Communties: Selection of Participants, Improvisation and Story Creation
Video has the potential to retrieve experiences and reflect the voices of under-represented communities. It provides an accessible record of testimonies, discussions and activities. Groups and individual participants make use of these audio visual records to discuss and reorganize their opinions and concerns. These go a long way to pass across information and communication between grass-root communities and those whom the under-represented groups will not normally be able to address; the governing powers. This section gives an analysis of the processes involved in the production of a VfD, a project carried out for the purpose of this research.
Video making goes through the different processes of pre-production, production and postproduction stages. VfD does not strictly follow the same approach. Here the approach is one that falls in line with TfD. It should be noted that the video methodology for this study makes use of aspects of participatory video. That is to say, both the process and the product build up the storyline for the final video product. The video depends on excerpts of Key Informant Interview (KII), Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Workshop sessions and the improvised story for its storyline.
The video is a synthesized product of videos from both communities under study. Participants are members of the two conflicting communities whom either in a KII, FGD and VfD workshop sessions provided and created the storyline and dialogues for this video.
The selection of the participants for the video project was based on the theme, the individual’s knowledge on the theme, and the different stakeholders involved in the conflict. In the Bamendankwe community, members of the traditional council were selected from the different communities that make up the Bamendankwe community, this was to make sure that the interests of all these communities are protected. Youth leaders were also selected as well as women representatives. The traditional ruler was the principal participant that represented the entire community. Butake explains that:
[…] if you are going to do a workshop with children on environmental education, generally we have about ten schools participating. You could not go to all the schools and pick up pupils from there. But generally you give directives to the head of schools and say ‘I want pupils from classes 5 and 6 or 6 and 7. I want so many males and so many females of this age and children who are active in school and things like that.’ So from that kind of perspective you will be able to get a good mix of pupils to work with. (Butake, 2005, p.76)
As such, selection of participants in the Nkwen community was a bit different from that of Bamendankwe. The president of the traditional council selected a member to represent the council, who then selected the youths and women in the community, who have insight into the conflict, as was guided by the researcher.
Some of the participants were made up of the inhabitants of the conflict area who are not indigenous from both communities who are affected by this conflict in one way or the other. This is to say that the participants were all representatives of the local communities. Again the participants were selected with respect to their availability for the video project. Participants who were available for the production were selected and cast as per their characters. They were guided on the theme of the workshop “Peacebuilding, Cultural Sustainability and the Land Conflict between Nkwen and Bamendankwe” by the workshop facilitator, and the overall requirements of the project. They decided to contribute in the peacebuilding process by availing their presence in the video. At the end of the selection process, some participants were actors in the video while others were trained with the use and operation of a video camera.
Community Participation as a Key Approach towards Building a Culture of Peace
The researcher considered the participative role by community members who were involved in the whole process of the video production. Thus this section analyses how much of the activities the community members were involved in and to what extent their participation contributed to the realization of the video. While talking about community participation Mohan Dutta points out that:
Participation is the cornerstone of social change as it is through participatory processes, space and techniques that local communities mobilise against oppressive social, economic and political structures. Participation brings about social change through the presence of subaltern populations whose marginalization has been symbolically and materially achieved throughout history; through their erasure from mainstream spaces of society (Dutta 2011, p. 170)
Based on the above in the Nkwen community, while commenting about the whole experience and their participation in the video production, one of the female participants acknowledged that the experience “was a new but intriguing one” (Female participant 1, Nkwen community). She talked about how the whole idea was welcomed by the participants especially the aged members of the workshop who dedicated their time to learn the process and also gave in their inputs that led to the realization of the video story. The participants recalled that community members participated and responded positively to the VfD project and also noted that, their participation in the process will mark a great change in the way they address conflict situations.
Engaging Community Participation Towards Building a Culture of Peace
From the KII and during the FGD and workshop sessions participants were unanimous in their response to the question of participation for sustainable solutions to the land conflict stating that VfD provided a platform for participants to share their thoughts towards addressing the land conflict that’s affecting them. Community members from Nkwen and Bamendankwe who participated in the project attested that they were happy to have had the opportunity to be part of discussions on the conflict between them. The workshop helped them to open up and for the first time contribute directly in the peacebuilding process.
Additionally, the participants explained that the VfD process gave them the opportunity to have a retrospective look at their cultural heritage like intercommunity festivals, a unique ancestral origin, a common shrine, tradition, rituals and rites of passage which are facing near extinction, by engaging in dialogues that gave them more insights into the causes and effects of the conflict. Essentially, the responses from the participants demonstrated their regards for these cultural practices and their significance to the two communities which fostered the cordial relationship that existed between them. According to the traditional ruler of Nkwen community, to show respect and the link between the two communities, members from both communities would drop a piece of whatever they had in the shrine before crossing over to the other side: “That was a symbol of the link between the two communities” (KII session in Nkwen, August 2018). This indicated that although the conflict had strained relationships, the video process opened up discussions and also suggested the reintroduction of these cultural elements not just for the sake of peacebuilding but also for cultural sustainability.
Despite the claims of both communities on efforts made towards peacebuilding the study discovers that there had been no proper communication between the two traditional leaders since most of the times they met only during court summon. Also the community members’ requests for dialogue between the two traditional leaders is a proof of poor communication regarding resolving the conflict.
Further, the study found out that apart from addressing the land conflict and cultural issues plaguing these communities VfD created a forum for capacity building among the participants. They learned new skills in story creation, acting and camera operation. One of the members attested that he can now use his mobile phone to record stories on problems faced in their community.
The study also found out that both communities saw the need for the reintroduction of cultural practices as well as indicated their willingness for peaceful coexistence as they expressed their concerns on the fact that their culture will be extinct if the conflict is prolonged. They were especially particular about the joint cultural practices of hunting, football tournaments, annual dance festivals and exchanged ritual ceremonies which kept the two communities together and applauded the VfD approach that according to them served as an eye opener.
VfD proved a feasible approach in engaging community participation towards building a culture of peace in the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities of Northwest Cameroon who are in conflict over land. Participants were selected from both communities and for the first time, sat together as members of the community to participate in discussions on the resolution of the land conflict
Furthermore, the study found out that the community video screening aspect of participatory video should have been included in the VfD process. It would have created more impact if the video was screened for these communities to watch together. That way it would have spurred up more discussions and dialogue towards the peacebuilding process with suggestions from other community members who were not part of the video production.
Artistic Community Participation as an Approach for Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability
The study concludes that the engagement of community participation in the production of a video can be an effective approach for peacebuilding and cultural sustainability between conflicting communities in Northwest Cameroon. The findings indicate that VfD provides an enabling environment for both communities conscientisation, empowerment and engagement in the peacebuilding process of the land conflict between them. Through community participation participants also identified cultural practices that had been abandoned by both communities and proposed for their reintroduction for peaceful coexistence.
The study also came out with a synthesized video made from recordings of the process in both communities and an acted story created by participants through a participatory story creation process. This video will go a long way to create more awareness on the use of VfD for peacebuilding and cultural sustainability and as well will serve as a medium for cultural preservation. Hence VfD can be seen as an arts-based strategy that can significantly contribute to peacebuilding, cultural sustainability and sustainable development in Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities of Northwest Cameroon.
Based on the above findings and conclusion, arts-based approaches and arts education can be identified as critical to peacebuilding processes. Thus conflicting communities should be highly encouraged to utilize a VfD approach in resolving conflicts that are deterrent to their socio-cultural development. The videos could be screened in their already existing platforms such as village squares and community halls. With such screenings community participation will be ensured such that they may become the drivers of their own realities by addressing issues faced by their communities.
Moreover, NGOs, government agencies and activists should consciously make use of arts-based approaches and arts education to ensure inclusive participation through dialogue and peacebuilding processes between conflicting communities.
Government officials, traditional rulers and community elites involved in development issues should be encouraged by VfD practitioners through awareness creation to be part of both, the VfD workshops and the video recording, to ensure an implementation of the results. The invitation of media houses covering the process of the VfD production can create further awareness on arts-based approaches for peacebuilding.Finally, a community assessment on the effectiveness of the tool of VfD in promoting a culture of peace between the Nkwen and Bamendankwe communities would be a beneficial follow up project.