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Traces of Germans in West Africa

date of entry 14/02/1991
mileage 67,930

capital Yaoundé

area 475.442 km²

population 20.549.221

GDP 42.778 M. US-Dollar

official language French/English

Portuguese merchants settled in the former German colony of Cameroon in about 1470 and traded chiefly in ivory and sugar cane. During the period of German colonisation, however, the focus was on palm oil. Touring the country was a pleasant experience for the Holtorfs, who met many friendly people, a surprising number of whom even spoke a few words of German.
  • In Cameroon too, the Holtorfs encountered many traditional villages made up of round huts.
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  • Everything is a question of technique: these three Cameroonian girls balance their bowls on their heads with apparent ease. Gunther Holtorf and his wife Christine visited the former German colony in 1991.
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  • Gunther Holtorf was fascinated by the skill of the women carrying loads
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  • In Cameroonian society child-rearing and domestic chores are regarded as women’s tasks. Traditional structures are now slowly breaking up, however. In the larger towns in particular, women are leading increasingly independent lives.
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  • In rural areas, on the other hand, traditions live on
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  • Men with loads on their heads therefore offered a photo opportunity less frequently. Cameroon has a population of over 20 million. Because of the poor infrastructure and health care in this developing country, the average life expectancy for men and women is just over 50 years.
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  • The traditional Cameroonian dress is called Kaba Ngondo. It features colourful patterns.
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  • The yams on sale here are one of the country’s staple foods.
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  • Christine Holtorf examined the Cameroonian produce more closely. The sale of surplus produce is a major source of income for many families living from subsistence farming.
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  • Cooking was often still done in typical three-legged clay pots, which were on sale here.
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  • The unusual sight of all-terrain vehicle Otto was, including in Cameroon, the starting point for many conversations. Here Christine Holtorf meets some women with their children.
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  • "The people were extremely friendly, polite and forthcoming," recalls Gunther Holtorf
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  • Some 200,000 boys and girls learn German in Cameroon’s schools. That makes it, after Spanish, the most important foreign language in the country – a legacy of the period of German colonial rule from the end of the 19th century to the end of the First World War. Jahrhundert und dem Ende des Ersten Weltkrieges.
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  • The official languages, however, are only English and French. This dates back to the period of rule by the colonial powers Britain and France, who following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles took Cameroon under their control.
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  • Handmade wooden bowls were on sale here.
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  • Many people in Cameroon work in the fields daily and have to carry their tools on their backs over long distances.
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  • Finally, a welcome distraction: young men abandoned their work on the cotton harvest and stormed towards Otto when they saw him.
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  • On wash day Otto is also put to use as a clothes horse
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  • When it rained the unpaved tracks became sodden and the clayey mud was pushed to one side by heavy lorries. To the right and left of the lane high embankments arose and the road literally sank.
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  • Accidents are a daily occurrrence on African roads. The Holtorfs often encountered ancient and completely overloaded vehicles which had simply overturned.
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  • On one occasion Gunther Holtorf slipped up himself and ran into a milestone at low speed. Little damage was caused however.
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  • Video: Cameroon – time stands still in the land of gentle people