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Historians Brainstorm On Visual Representation Of Cameroon History 

By Bouddih Adams
Historians and History scholars and researchers in Cameroon have underscored the role photographs and visual images play in the history of the nation.
They made the declaration on January 27 in a conference organised by the African Photography Initiative, in collaboration with the Cameroon Photo Press Archives, at the Pan African Institute for Development – West Africa.
Organised under the theme: “Validating visual heritage in Africa, historical heritage and the role of the archives,” the conference, according to Dr. Guy Thomas of Basel University, Switzerland, served as an opportunity for researchers to discuss and identify better ways of preserving the history of Cameroon through visual images and to identify the role archives play in preserving the history of Cameroon.
In his keynote presentation, Emeritus Professor and Historian, Verkijika Fanso, expressed concern about the lack of accurate photographic information that narrates the history of Cameroon. He lashed out at some awful traditional beliefs and practices that render the collection and preservation of visual data difficult.
According to Professor Fanso, despite innovations in technology and digital devices, most photographic records of Cameroon’s history are still largely inaccurate, unreliable or even inaccessible.
“The challenge lies in the fact that key pictures of particular moments in Cameroon’s history are either unavailable or were stored in irretrievable conditions. For the photos that are available, their locations are hardly known,” he said.
While lauding the efforts of institutions like the Cameroon Press Photo Archives and some historians for recollecting the history of Cameroon, Fanso expressed worry that most of the records about the history of Cameroon exist in foreign countries like France, Germany, Britain and Nigeria.
Through video projections, interactive discussion and a question and answer session, the history of Cameroon, with emphasis on major treaties and conferences that shaped the destiny of the nation was traced.
Reacting to the presentations, Professor Victor Julius Ngoh and Dr. Che Tita of the University of Buea cautioned against the distortion of photographic images. Che Tita said the practice has rendered historical images unreliable and unacceptable in academic research.
He admonished politicians who, for selfish motives, have tended to manipulate or “doctor” visual records of history, thereby falsifying historical facts.
Welcoming the participants to the seminar, Southwest Regional Delegate of Culture, Grace Ewang, lauded the African Photography Initiative and the Government of Switzerland for their efforts in retelling the history of Cameroon. She expressed concerns about the present state of the Cameroon Cultural Centre which, she said, had lost its cultural heritage.
“I hope this rare presentation of these premises will once more rekindle the beehive activities which, once upon a time, characterised the Former Alliance Franco- Camerounaise,” she said.
The African Photography Initiative is a group of photographers, historians and researchers with headquarters in Switzerland, with the objective of retelling the history of African nations through photography and visual images.

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