We Must Return to the Habit of Storytelling…”, Inongo-Vi-Makome

Inongo-vi-Makomé was born in Lobé-Kribi and did his primary education between his native village and Ebolowa. He started his secondary education in Santa Isabel, now Malabo. After Equatorial Guinea, he went to Spain to complete his secondary education and started his tertiary education at the Faculty of Medicine in Valencia. However, he did not pursue a career in Medicine but dedicated himself to literature. He is the author of several literatures: Akono and Belinga; Bemama; The Princess of the Falls; The Kings of Zokala; The Assembly of African Animals, etc.; essays: Spain and Black Africans, etc. Novels: Rebeldía; Issubu; Mam’enying, etc.; theatre books: Muna Anyambe; Bwee o Ititi; Los descendientes, to mention a few.

Interview by Labou Hermann, for Muna Kalati.

How was your first experience with books and reading? *

My first experience was when I started school in my village. But afterwards, as I grew older, I started reading other books, especially when I started secondary school in Santa Isabel (now Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea).    

The first books were the ones we were offered to read at school: Mamadou and Bineta, etc. 

 Can you give us an overview of your career? Why did you become interested in the area of children’s books? Was it a choice or a twist of fate? *

I can’t exactly say that I’ve been interested in children’s books or that I’m interested in them as such. I have always recognized that it is our traditional African tales that have inspired and still inspire me to write. And in these tales, I discover that these tales are not only for children, but for all audiences. At least that’s how I see it.

What difficulties and obstacles have you encountered? Was it easy to get access to publishers? Is it possible to make a living solely from this profession?

I encountered many obstacles everywhere, but I resisted. It is not easy to make a living from it, and I can say that I don’t make a living from it. I didn’t know I was going to dedicate myself to writing. I was studying medicine in Valencia (Spain). I had my first son when I was a student and I read stories to him every night. But as time went by, he didn’t want one, or two, but more. And the person that used to fall asleep was me. So, one day I decided to tell him an African tale. I sang, as I narrated the story. So he fell asleep. Then as I couldn’t remember many others, one day I asked a friend and neighbour from Equatorial Guinea to narrate an African tale, and she did. When I got home, I took a piece of paper to write it down, so I wouldn’t forget it. But as soon as I wrote the first word down, I had a feeling of not knowing how to explain. That’s how it all started. As I was in Spain for my secondary and tertiary education, I wrote them in Spanish.

How do you promote your books? How do the audience receive your literary work?

I can say that I don’t promote my books. I only take a photo of the book after it is published and share, but in reality, I don’t do any promotion.

How many children’s books have you published so far? Can you name them? Would you like Muna Kalati to do an analysis of these books?

All my tales belong to the collection that bears the name: “Histoires d’une forêt africaine pour Muna” “Tales of an African forest for Muna”

What impact has COVID had on your work? What measures have you developed to adapt?

COVID impacted everyone. I observed all the measures we were all adhered to follow. “Detained without offence”, that is how I refer to what others call confinement. Nevertheless, it helped me to write two books in Cameroon and in Africa. 

The children’s book sector is little known to the general public and especially to parents. How do you explain/justify this phenomenon?

I won’t be able to give you an explanation on that. As you know, even if I go to Cameroon regularly, I have been living abroad for a long time.

What is your vision for the future of children’s literature in your country?

I wish for a better one. We are all trying to work together to make it grow. We need to revive some of the customs of the past that were not as bad as we think. We need to return to the habit of telling stories, not only in the evenings in the villages, but also especially in schools. I make my living from this profession here in Europe. I have been to many cities in Spain and to some other European countries, telling stories. It was our literature, but it has disappeared here. I think we have to revive our culture by telling stories, starting with children.    

How do you want to contribute to the Muna Kalati project?

It depends on what I am asked to do and what I can do.

Any last words?

Good luck to you all and thank you.

About the Author

Christian Elongue

Christian Elongué is the author of “Introduction to Children Literature in Cameroon” (2019) and researcher on children and young adult literature. Dismayed by a lack of black characters in books available to African children, Elongué founded Muna Kalati in 2017 with the goal of building international recognition for African children’s book authors and increasing access to African children literature. Muna Kalati, was founded at a time when African children’s books were poorly promoted, and African authors and illustrators were virtually unknown. In 2018, they started publishing Muna Kalati magazine, which is becoming a reference for writers, publishers and illustrators of children's and Young Adult books, as well as librarians, teachers, editors and parents. Lifelong learner, he holds a postgraduate certificate on children literature (University of Liège, France) and 3 master’s degree

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