In Cameroon, heritage is threatened by neglect and ignorance of its value, by the unconscious destruction of vernacular heritage and by the lack of structure in research and protection.
Heritage services are not yet operational (lacking both development and financial means).
With a surface area of 475,442 square kilometres and 12 million inhabitants, Cameroon is situated in Central Africa at the bottom of the Gulf of Guinea. It includes all of Africa in a
single country, which is why one can traditionally call it Africa in miniature. As well, with respect to human institutions, it is this spring from which gushes all types of manifestations of
African sensitivities, offering all the varieties of urban, artistic, architectural and heritage wealth.
The architecture of Cameroon is well known by experts, as the geographic position of this country - at the crossroads of important African civilisations - abuts the Southern
Bantu, Sahelian and North Sudanese populations. These constructions testify to an obvious artistic endeavor, both in the choice of their establishment in natural sites and in the
mastery of form and attention to detail.
Cameroon, combining the cultures of Africa, possesses a vernacular architecture (of forest, of plain, or mountains) that is exceptionally rich. Royal or villager, it attests to the
knowledge and skills of civilisations, having conserved the originality and the artistic genius of the artisan builders. Cameroon also offers one of the most varied ranges of colonial
architecture in Africa.
A Threatened Culture
In a country that is changing, both tradition and modernity co-exist. Residences are still constructed using techniques transferred from generation to generation. These so-called
traditional techniques themselves appropriate elements of modernity and the reference to tradition takes more elusive forms.
Vernacular Heritage in Decline
With the exception of a few structures, the buildings in towns and villages are dilapidated, often damaged. From rotten bamboo to corrugated iron, degraded under the action of time,
the landscape we observe gives a poor image of the chieftainships, when in the past they used to be the richest and most beautiful districts of the towns and villages. Nowadays, we
observe in Cameroon a real architectural uniformity, and this receives the benediction of Cameroonian public officials and also of certain building professionals.
The Desire for Modernity and the Decline of Traditional Values
This is impacting the ‘old’ management of chieftainships and of colonial palaces, and is unhampered in the absence of a national policy aimed at highlighting vernacular and colonial
heritage. The search for modernity has today resulted in an architecture that abandons local materials (straw, bamboo, wood), which are judged poorly in comparison with the
performance of corrugated iron and walls of concrete.
It is reported that in Cameroon there is an absence of a policy of conservation and a value for vernacular architecture. One could say that we are in a society whose children
assist, without any real reaction, in the disappearance of their culture’s essence.
It is urgent that ICOMOS and UNESCO invest resources and attention to promote on international solidarity with regard to inventory, conservation policy, heritage protection and
promotion in Africa.