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Culture and Safety in Africa

Les Mots Écrits de New Bell

Name of Artworks
Les Mots Écrits de New Bell, 2010

Location and Accessibility
New Bell Ngangue Neighborhood: École CBC Babylon, Chez Kakanu Bar, Éntrée source, La Laverie, Cimitière

Level of Significance
Passageway installations, murals

About the Artworks
Les Mots Écrits de New Bell is a set of six mural installations by Hervé Yamguen. It is part of “Liquid projects”, a program of SUD2010 that financed the production of permanent artworks (dedicated to the theme of water) in the neighborhoods of residence of four local artists. In New Bell, Yamguen worked in collaboration with two local rappers, Picsou and Moctomoflar, engaging them in the recording (and releasing) of a four songs album about water. During the production process the artist also introduced young people and local residents to the project through night performances and discussion meetings. From the lyrics of rappers, Yamguen extracted text fragments, reproducing them on six façades of Ngangue’s neighborhood that were spontaneously offered by locals. Les Mots Écrits de New Bell were produced on different supports: neon lights, tile mosaics, mirrors, iron rods, and painting. The text fragments selected by Yamguen clearly depict the reality of hardship and hope of New Bell’s inhabitants. Here the texts:

  • Après le temps mort vient le temps vif comme un coup de foudre. Ne pleure pas maman, tous les yeux de la ville pleuvent sur moi. Tranquille papa on ne panique pas;
  • La vie saine, la joie de se sentir bien, l’envie de vivre de bonheur;
  • Se sentir bien;
  • La nuit le bonheur c’est dans les moustiquaires;
  • Wash ma life, Lave mon âme; Wash mes ways, Lave mon kwatt;
  • Dans les eaux sales du quartier, dans ma ruelle, ma jeunesse rebelle.

However, two of these installations were removed: the first one – “Wash ma life, Lave mon âme, Wash mes ways, Lave mon kwatt” – for degradation, due to its position on the wall of a car washer; the second one – “Dans les eaux sales du quartier, dans ma ruelle, ma jeunesse rebelle” – was vandalized by the owner of the wall due to hard discussions with the rapper who wrote the sentence.

About the location
New Bell is the largest popular and historic district of Douala. Designed at the end of the 19th century by the German colonizers as a zone for isolating the indigenous population, New Bell has become today a central district of the city, including 32 neighborhoods and inhabited primarily by nationals and foreigners, relatives of immigrants of the second-third generation. New Bell is often labeled with a bad reputation, due to the precarious living conditions of its inhabitants, as well as to the presence of the prison and the main central market of the city, making it an easy target for criminals. Ngangue is just one of the neighborhoods of New Bell, characterized by informal settlements, difficult access to water and public services.