The Post Newspaper: Mr Kidio Rolland Samni, you are the Coordinator of the Literary Translator’s Association of Cameroon, what is the main objective of this association?
K.R: May be I should start with who we are. The Literary Translator’s Association of Cameroon is an association of emerging and established literary translators, writers, students, readers, teachers, linguists, publishers and other professionals committed to fostering, furthering, and supporting the practice of translation, transcription, creative writing and publishing Literature from across Cameroon and beyond. Our main objective is to “translate Cameroon”. By translating Cameroon, we mean transcribing, translating and publishing our oral Literature and relevant cultural knowledge from the various communities in Cameroon as well as advocating translation of the body of existing Literature into both official languages.
The Post: By doing that, what problem are you trying to solve?
K.R: We intend to enhance intercommunity dialogue through translation. Over the years, we have witnessed a lot of ethnic tensions and intercommunity crises in different regions of Cameroon which jeopardize peace, national unity and integration as well as the people’s resolve to live together and to forge a common national destiny. We strongly believe that if literature and other cultural knowledge from different communities across Cameroon is translated and made available in our two official Languages, it would bring voices from all over Cameroon to readers everywhere in a way that would lead to a better understanding of our diversity, make different communities feel more connected, and above all enhance peace. In the same way, we hope to encourage the availability of vital information in Cameroonian languages for those communities that have already developed their writing systems. This is critical because there is a small or insignificant number of Cameroonians who are not literate in the official languages but who have acquired reading and writing skills in their local languages. Aside that, we hope to encourage people with multilingual literacy abilities to access useful development information in more than one language. This will be a major contribution towards realising the bilingualism and multiculturalism project. Through translation into and from official and national languages, therefore, we wish to contribute to building a new body of Cameroonian writing that connects writers and readers from Tokombere to Bipindi and from Fru Awa to Mouloundou.
The Post: When was this association created?
K.R: The Association was declared and registered in 2021 under Registration No. 00000661/ARDA/J06/A2/ALPAS/APPB. This initiative was sparked up at a Literary Translation workshop and conference organised by Bakwa Publishers in collaboration with the University of Bristols in the UK. This event culminated in the publication of the first ever bilingual short story Anthology in Cameroon entitled: Your Feet Will Lead You Where Your Heart Is in English and “Les crépuscule des âmes soeurs” in French, stories written by Cameroonians and translated by Cameroonian translators.
The Post: How do you intend to get stakeholders involved?
K.R: The key word here is Advocacy. We intend to hold translation slams and working sessions with writers and publishers to share ideas with them on the importance of giving their books and literary productions a new life in a different language. We also encourage our members (who are writers) to document cultural knowledge, folklore or short stories from their cultural background which we would translate and get them published.
The Post Newspaper: Are there certain public structures you work with?
K.R: We are registered with the Ministry of Culture and we work with other cultural associations like Ônoan in the domain of creative writing and Literary Production. We also intend to seek guidance and counsel from the National Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism given that most of our activities fall directly under their sphere of influence.
The Post Newspaper: Can you cite some books which have been published only in one official language and you think speakers of the other language are missing out?
K.R: For the past two decades, literary production in Cameroon has been so rich and for the most part remains untranslated that I don’t know which masterpiece to start with. As far as translation from French into English is concerned, some of these masterpieces are Les bimanes by Séverin C. Abega; 8 Clos by Djhamidi Bond; Sous La Cendre le Feu by Evelyne Mpoudi Ngollè; Les tribus de Capitoline by P. -C. Ombete-Bella; Le cri muet by Guillaume Nana; Les larmes de la patience by Djaïli Amadou Amal and Mémé coquine by Koutoukoute.
For English into French translation, some contemporary Anglophone Cameroonian works such as Across the Mongolo by Nkemngong J. Nkengasong; The Immortal Seed by Tah Protus; What God has put Asunder by Victor Epie Ngome; Lake God by Bole Botake; The Return by Jude Berinyuy Tangwa; When Death Heals by Nkwain Killian Tubuo and The Radio and Other Stories by Gilbert Ndi Shang need to be translated for the French-speaking (Cameroonian) audience. Going from the premise that many scholars have described much of early Anglophone Cameroonian literature as protest literature, we think that if this literature had been translated into French, it would have put the problems (perceived or real) and frustrations felt by this minority linguistic community on the public space and, just maybe, things would have been different. We think that if every literary piece published in Cameroon is translated for the other linguistic community; we will preserve our diversity and build a better nation for posterity.
The Post: Can you cite some of the books that fall under what you described as protest Literature?
K.R.: Some of these works include; Prisoner without a Crime, What God has Put Asunder, Beast of No Nation, And Palm Wine Will Flow, and most of the works of late Bate Besong and Bole Botake, among others.
The Post Newspaper: if you were to address the authorities with regard to this initiative, what would you tell them?
I would say that Translation and translators should be made to play their rightful role in the management of Cameroon’s rich diversity. As far as literary translation is concerned, policy makers could think of incentive measures to encourage creative writers and publishers to have their works published in both French and English. This could be by means of a translation fund to be used to translate and promote our national Literature in the official Languages, in some of the local languages and why not to support initiatives like ours to create literary translation awards. In fact, I think that any initiative that has the potential to spur writers and publishers to publish in more than one language for the wider audience is welcome.
First Published in The Post Weekender of Thursday, March 31, 2022