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In Review: Moustik’s Clumsy Bite at Canal d’Or Acte 12
Category :- Editorial Author :- By Ferdinand Awung Mbecha 
Posted on March 18, 2019, 9:45 am

Socrates once described himself as the gadfly which God has attached itself “to the state, and all day long and in all places, I am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you.” And so, R.N. Egad urges all socially conscious artists to take this statement as their manifesto and to use it at all times and in all places. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. When given the opportunity to reproach the executors of state power, some artists have often chosen to perpetuate the status quo by becoming surrogates of the machinery of oppression.

The 12th edition of the Canal D’or awards was held in Yaounde on the 9th of March 2019. It was a heavily attended event featuring the presence of top members of the ruling elite of Cameroon, the highest of them being the First Lady, Chantal Biya. As such events often go, there were lots of performances from a broad spectrum of entertainers. However, the performance that seems to have gone viral was a comic sketch by Moustik Le Karimastik featuring Markus. On the YouTube channel of Canal 2 International TV the performance is described as a beautiful illustration of Living Together (the most recent catchphrases of the Biya government). A beautiful concept one must say. However, the practical application of the concept has been done in a manner that instead silences dissent. It refuses to give spaces to dissenting voices.
Moustik’s performance received hundreds of positive comments from YouTube users. Most of the commentators were very emotional, stating that watching the video made them cry. There is also a mouthwatering review of the performance on the website of Le Jour Newspaper. Moustik, the article argues, has fulfilled the role of the artist as articulated by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett that “To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.” Going by this argument, it would mean that Moustik has shown a good grasp of the problems of national unity besetting Cameroon today. It would mean that the solution he proposed at the end of his sketch can help the nation in its clumsy attempts to heal the wounds of division. But I say, not so fast! Moustik’s sketch fell short of expectations. The artist failed to be the gadfly on the anus of the cow of state constantly reminding it of its own uncleaned excrement. If anything at all, the two artists did nothing but play to the gallery of the buffoonery called “Vivre Ensemble”, whatever that means.

Their skid was beautifully conceived, yet it was more of melodrama and the parroting of official arguments than an honest solution-oriented interrogation of a national malaise. The performance succeeded in upholding the government’s narrative of national unity. A success that depended on the performer’s ability to silence the voices of dissent. The plot is based on the theme of the family, a common approach that has severally been used by artists and politicians to drum up support or national unity. Mbok (acted by Markus) the son of Essomba (acted by Moustik) is leaving home to go and find work in the city. It is morning, the day after the celebration of the International Women’s Day. After Essomba’s wife raucously wakes up everyone, they all gather in the living room. Essomba takes his position as family head and dishes out some advice to his son. A few minutes into the sketch, the political subtext emerges.

Essomba tells his son not to choose his friends based on their ethnic provenance. He goes on, “Your mother is Bamileke. I am Beti. You were named Mbok after one of my friends. She (pointing to his daughter) is Evengue, an Eton name. You are all mixed children and I am proud of you.” What is the political implication of such a statement? The statement delves straight into the murky waters of ethnicity that Cameroon has never been able to successfully navigate. Essomba’s explanation of the names of his children reveals a loophole in the discourse of national unity currently embodied in the narratives of “Vivre Ensemble”. One YouTube user with the name Katika Lolo could not have expressed the problem better: “very good sketch, but Cameroon has never had a problem of living together as the politicians are singing to us all the time, but there is rather a problem of EATTING TOGETHER.” The names of the children do not reveal any equitable representation of the identities of the couple. His wife who is Bamileke is not represented in the naming of the children. The names remain within the Eton/Bulu/Beti ethnic group that has taken power hostage in Cameroon. His wife’s identity has been tacitly erased in not giving the children a Bamileke name. Thus, Cameroon’s problem is more about how to share the fruits of our collective labor than how to live together. The fact that the bi-ethnic couple has raised these grown up children shows that they can live together. However, what is the future of the wife’s identity?

This approach to living together is what has led to the current war in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. The thought that one ethnic group can arrogate and keep power in perpetuity has left other ethnic groups and regions seething in anger. Essomba gives the impression that living together means silencing the partner’s voice. At the beginning of the video he silences his wife by telling her: “I thought Women’s Day was yesterday.” This is an indirect way of saying you had your day to talk, now it is my turn. But the most brutal act of silencing his wife comes when he tells her that he understands that only a cock can crow not a hen.

As the skid picks up crescendo, Essomba gets emotional and starts weeping. It is then that he performs the biggest political ritual. He takes out a green kerchief and wipes his tears and then hands it to his son. He does same with a red one and hands it to his wife. And then the yellow one which he hands to his daughter. Those are the colors of the Cameroon flag. The audience bursts into applause. Pointing at the horizon, Essomba declares to his son: “Do you see the light over there? It is the light of Sardinards, Tontinards, and Nulparards. Sardinards and Tontinards are all children of this system (holds up the national flag). Take your bag. Go and represent the country validly. Let no one instrumentalize you. People are fighting for personal interests. Cameroon first. Cameroonians first. We are one and indivisible. Leave witchcraft aside”.

Achilles Mbembe has “To ensure that no…challenges take place, the champions of state power invent entire constellations of ideas; they adopt a distinct set of cultural repertoires and powerfully evocative concepts.” What have we not heard? Grand Ambitions, Rigor and Moralization, national integration, national unity, and now, living together. Even as Moustik’s character cautions youths to guard against being instrumentalized, one cannot help but see him as an instrument of the tyranny of state power. It is disheartening to hear him evoke with vigor what Mbembe calls the powerfully evocative concepts of the commandement of the postcolony. And like the commandement itself, Moustik’s actions do not unite. They only sweep the dirt and push it under the carpet. And so, the carpet of state continues to rot underneath while a feel-good atmosphere reigns above.

Tagged Keywords:  Moustik’s Clumsy Bite
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