The West Region of Cameroon
It is the home of the Bamiléké and Bamoun people. These two ethnic groups are famous for their cultural and traditional richness. It is bordered in the north by the North West and Adamawa Regions, east by the Center Region, south by the Littoral Region and the west by the South West Region.
Its head-quarter is Bafoussam and it has a surface area of 13 892km2 and a population of 1 785 285 inhabitants (2010 estimates).
It is subdivided into 8 divisions;
UPPER – NKAM (BAFANG)
HAUT – PLATEAUX (BAHAM)
KOUNG – KHI (BANDJOUN)
The West Region of Cameroon is magnificently endowed by nature such that it has nothing to envy to the Auvergne Region of France. Generally, it has a hilly topography that is crisscrossed by beautiful rivers which are often sectioned by waterfalls. It has a series of rounded-up mountains which result from ancient volcanic activities.
The climate here is moderated by two main seasons; a dry season beginning from October – November till March – April and a rainy season beginning in March – April to end in October – November. The average annual temperature in certain localities such as Dschang and Bangou is just about 20°C.
The West Region of Cameroon is the land of traditions and culture. It is characterised by traditional and cultural wealth such as handicraft and arts expressed in different forms such as pipes, clay utensils, copper masks and figurines, stools decorated with pearls and the Bamiléké dancers in their picturesque costumes.
Foumban is widely considered as the handicraft capital of Cameroon. The West Region presents striking tourism resources such as its rounded –up mountains, green landscapes along the plains and valleys and a very rich cultural diversity.
CULTURAL TOURISM IN THE WEST REGION OF CAMEROON
The main cultural attractions in the West Region of Cameroon is its multitude of traditional chiefdoms, museums and a testimony of the vitality and the importance of a still respected ancestral culture.
THE BANDJOUN CHIEFDOM
The architecture of the Bandjoun chiefdom is certainly the most monumental and the most majestic of the Bamiléké land. Its architectural buildings are made up of facades with bamboos bound with grass fibres and decorated for geometrical motives. The central building is covered by a heavy and thick conical thatch roof. The furniture inside is mainly made of bamboo. It hosts a rich museum where relics of former chiefs and the heritage of the dynasty are displayed.
THE FOUMBAN SULTANATE
It is also known as the “City of Arts”. Foumban is the capital of the Bamoun Kingdom. It is one of the oldest kingdoms in Black Africa. Its royal palace, a careful blend of baroque and local architectural styles is a MUST SEE attraction in the region. It was built in 1917 and is still very much alive till today. The palace is also the host of the famous Foumban museum. The Foumban museum regroups and displays more than 3 000 works of arts and historic items of the Bamoun culture.
THE BAFOUSSAM CHIEFDOM
It was founded around the year 1200 by the Bafoussam people originating from the Tikar plains. The entrance to the palace is lined with high eucalyptus and woody alleys and it leads to the main building, which is the Tchong (customary court) built with bamboos and decorated with colourful frescoes and encircled with sculptured pillars, illustrating the cultural life and revealing the architectural style. A rich collection of socio-cultural, religious and political objects, still used as an expression of the power of the current Chief are displayed in the palace museum.
THE BAMENDJOU CHIEFDOM
It is an architectural framework that was built following a traditional plan, with huts made up of crossed bamboos. The main building is known as Nemmoh and is decorated with sculptured wooden elements. It is a colonial style palace built by the artist, Oumbé Massah, at the beginning of the 20th century.
FESTIVALS IN THE WEST REGION OF CAMEROON
There are multitudes of festivals and traditional ceremonies in this region which have encouraged the local culture to use masks, costumes for dancing and to practice traditional rites. Life here is stepped up by traditional religious and burial ceremonies which take place mainly during the dry season.
THE “NGUON” FESTIVAL IN FOUMBAN
It is a famous biennial cultural festival of the Bamoun people which is at the origin of an agricultural show but most importantly a conference of the sovereign people vis-à-vis the Ku-mutngu, a real manifestation of active democracy. This festival has been celebrated since 1394 and carried on under the regency of all the monarchs who succeeded NCHARE YEN until date. It hinges around 3 major activities namely; a night procession of the Nguon brotherhood members (the “Fonaguon”) entering the main palace hall of the Kings, an exchange of medicines between the King and the members of the brotherhood, and a public scene during which the King is temporarily discharged of his duties for derelictions (failures) of duty recorded in the kingdom during the last two years. The King is then given the chance to justify his shortcomings with solid and convincing arguments before he is authorised to settle down once again on the throne.
THE “NYANG – NYANG” FESTIVAL IN BAFOUSSAM
The Nyang – Nyang festival, also known as the Nekang or Nkee festival takes place every two years. Nyang – Nyang means power or magic and it is a festival that is celebrated by the Baleng and Bafoussam peoples. It is an initiatory dance ceremony held every two years and coincides with the harvests period. It is also a symbol for economic wealth. Nyang – Nyang is the shout of the ravens, which is a way to assist women in the fields during the harvests.
THE NGOU NGUONG FESTIVAL OF BALENG
This is a biennial festival held for over several months and it is intended to initiate the youths into the habits and customs of the society. The ceremonies take place with parties dressed with mask decorations made up of plants stalks from the peace trees.
THE KAING CEREMONY IN BAHAM
Kaing means magic. It is a biennial rite that is centered about initiations, fertility worship, evocation and use of occult powers for the well-being of the populations.
AGROTOURISM IN THE WEST REGION OF CAMEROON
The West Region of Cameroon is commonly referred to as the “Grassfields” because of the vast agricultural plantations extending over the plains and valleys. It is major agricultural production zone in Cameroon. The fertile soil has favoured a large-scale production of coffee, cocoa or tea, which are complemented by subsistence crops such as vegetables, cabbages, potatoes, peanuts, corns, beans, carrots, etc. The West Region created its wealth on agro-pastoral production, in particular, the production of Arabica coffee in the high valleys around Bandjoun, Bafoussam, Bamendjou, Bamougoum, Bayangam, Bangou and Baham.
OUTDOOR TOURISM IN THE WEST REGION OF CAMEROON
This region is studded with mountains and hills that offer great opportunities for hiking and trekking among other outdoor activities.
WATERFALLS AND LAKES
Because of its hilly terrain, the West Region of Cameroon is studded with many lakes and falls, some of the most important include the falls at Mami – Wata, Métché, Kigang, Mouanko, Bakondji, Tchanko, Banka, Batcha, Bakelac, Sincoa, Batoum, Pendou, Ndé, Ntaveu, and Chehanzewe.
With the exception of the Dschang municipal lake, most of the lakes in this region are crater lakes. They are, Lake Baleng, famous for its huge wild duck population, Lake Doupé, Lake Ghanka, and Lake Takouche.
MOUNTAINS, PASS, CLIFF AND CAVES
Peak Neyang, Mount Mete, Cliff Santchou, Rocks of Fongo – Tongo (15 km from Dschang), Bana Pass, Batcha Pass and the most famous of all, the Batié Pass, with its tourism center fitted out at 1 600 meters of altitude and offering a beautiful panoramic view of the whole region.
The caves of Fovu, Banwa, Mboeto, and the Ndessi Nekang Caves (10 kms from Bafoussam) served refuge for the waterside populations during tribal wars.
The Bamboutos Mountains, culminating at 2 740 meters of altitudes offers a panoramic view of the entire West Region.
The Dschang market: It is symbolised by its 3 traditional huts with conical roofs, which resemble mushrooms, and reflects the richness of the Bamiléké tradition.
The Dschang craft Center: It is very rich in art works produced in the West Region.
The Djutitsa Tea Plantation: It is found some 20km from Dschang.
The Vestige of the first car bought and driven by a Bamiléké chief: It is found at the Bangou chiefdom.