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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Migration, architecture, and the transformation of the landscape in the Bamileke Grassfields of West Cameroon
Author:Ndjio, BasileISNI
Periodical:African Diaspora: a Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World
Geographic term:Cameroon
housing construction
social status
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/187254609X430777
Abstract:This paper explores how Bamileke emigrants from the Grassfields region of West Cameroon (re)imagine their community, and how through architecture they construct defensive identities based on communal principles and parochial solidarities. Through the example of some successful Bamileke expatriates, the paper shows how architecture embodies the desire of these affluent emigrants to reconnect themselves to their native village, to assert their ethnic identity, and more importantly to recover their alleged 'lost roots'. It also discusses the use of architecture by successful Bamileke emigrants, who are for the most part former marginalized social juniors, as a means to challenge the dominant regime of chieftaincy and notability that generally excludes disinherited and untitled people from access to lands and wealth. The paper shows how by choosing to construct their imposing houses, not on depressed or low-lying sites - as the customary elites and the local bourgeoisie used to do - but instead on heightened layouts such as the top of hills or mountains, well-off Bamileke emigrants have imposed over time new configurations of architecture and dwelling in their native region. More importantly, their actions, which dramatize the 'high' as the new site of power, prestige and majesty, have reversed the traditional Bamileke cosmology that generally gives primacy to the 'low' over the 'high'. The paper is based on field research in Bana between 2002 and 2006 as well as among successful 'bush fallers' from this locality in Cameroon and abroad (UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands). Bibliogr, notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]