he day was still asleep within the tender folds of the Universe and faint tentacles of the sun’s yellow and orange rays were just visible beyond the pale of the horizon and painting a religious tone on the hill and valleys.
The chips of birds and crickets, the moaning of distant streams was a silent benediction within the mysterious and heavenly canto of the morning. A single dew drop that hung delicately underneath the leafy stanzas of a solitary foliage in the field nearby seemed to contained the whole story of life within itself. It was a numinous spectacle the enveloped everything.
As it was still a little dark, the quietness of the day was very somber and eloquent with a solemnity which was sacred and it touched gently but potently on the mind. It is at such times of the day when it would seemed that, the unnamable and greater mystery behind life was touching compassionately upon the consciousness of all living things.
It is also sometimes at this period and phase of the day that, when the sun is just beginning to pierce the nebulous awakening diaphragm of the day, the kwifon (a masked masquerade of the Ngembas of Cameroon) talks to the collective consciousness of the communities. The kwifon understands the mysterious and symbolic language of the spirit, that potent and powerful antique language of life which is the root and ground of all living things. It is at such a moment too, that the mind can comprehend and feel the connectedness and deeper relationship that is between all living things and also with the unfathomable and profound things of the Universe. At this moment of the day when the tribe is half asleep and half awake, perhaps in a contemplative mood and state of being, then the language of the kwifon, communicated through log drums, rattles, xylophones and cowbells is able to penetrate the very thresholds of the community’s psyche to commune with everyone, at levels which do not need any extra verbal communication
Every single note and phrase, rhythm and motif, stanza and song, melody, recitation and dance contains the colourful language of life and all of its mysteries. This mysterious language of the kwifon is evocative of the multiple shapes, lines and geometry; rhythm, melody, structure and form, song and poetry, theatre and drama, oral history, religion and philosophy, social commentary and different states of consciousness progressively in the continuum and coordinates of time, space and distance. When it is sounded, it is only natural that individuals and the whole community responds to its cry and call. It is the Kwifon’s invocation to the living, to the land and to the Universe at large for a greater benediction to the tribe and for total communion within the folds of life.
We have worked with different symbolic themes, melodic and rhythmic structures, antique motifs of the upper Ngemba people of the savanna grass fields of Equatorial Africa, to capture the very primal essence of this aural and visual expressions and modes of conveyance of the kwifon. It may not be completely representative of the kwifon’s expressive forms as we are using different interfaces and mediums of conveyance, but the very basic structures of the aural and visual representations retains the essence.
Artist Statement 2014 © Tanka Fonta