A Young Cameroonian Theatre Director is making waves at the international scene – A cross border theatre project during the covid-19 pandemic
Bernard Wirsiy Bongkisheri has gradually and steadily become a household name in Cameroon and the International community when it comes to Theatre and Film production. He has a background in Theatre and Film from the University of Yaounde1 and from the University of Wits in Johannesburg, South Africa. One hardly can decipher from his looks the potentials he possesses but his artistic prowess stands as tall as the tower of Babylon. Uncle B, as he is known in the arts world, is founder and Coordinator of the Rainbow Interactive Association, a prolific arts production house based in Yaoundé. He is a mentor and coach to a great number of youths who are passionate for film and theatre, reason why he is Managing Director and Producer of Gold Arts.
The Hektomeron Project 2021 did not miss out on this talent. Uncle B was selected among the 100 Theatre Directors worldwide for the production of 100 theatre performances. The play Drowned by the Noise of Others was scripted and rehearsed for 8 days through the zoom platform and was performed in Romania on the 29th of January 2021. Cameroon Factfinder caught up with him his experience.
Cameroon Factfinder Mr. Wirsiy Bernard, thank you for talking to Cameroon Factfinder, We are aware of your participation in the Hektomeron Project. Can you tell us how you became a part of this prestigious Romanian project knowing fully well that you are so young and that there are great names in Cameroon theatre?
Wirsiy Bernard: It gladdens my heart to hear that you are aware of this humble stride I made this 2021. To be very candid with you, age and name are not what it takes to be creative or get recognition. Although a young theatre director, I have been prolific in producing performances of high repute. I am a writer, actor and director with a good training background and having gained a lot of experiences from my participation in national and international performances. It is said that the Goldfish has no hiding place. This is how those in charge of the Hektomeron project fished me out from a multitude of names and I gave them one of the best performances in the Hektomeron Project
How comfortable were you in scripting and directing a play through the Zoom platform?
The challenge was enormous. I had to develop a script within two days, run the rehearsals for 6 days with a crew that spoke only Romania and more importantly communicating with my cast and crew through Zoom. Other challenges came from the power outages and the unstable internet connection and more over, my actor, Stefan Cepoi, wasn’t versed with performing a solo piece. I had to conceive a lot of tactics to get him into the game. I believed in my ability to handle all these and the organizers of the Hektomeron project knew and believed I was up to the task.
What prospects do you have for the Cameroonian Theatre?
As a matter of fact, Cameroonian theatre is now living on its past glories. No theatre halls, no production equipment and worse of all, not even a professional theatre troupe. The National theatre troupe that existed in the yesteryears died a natural death and its resurrection seems unattainable. You talked about big names existing in Cameroon theatre, those are the people who enjoyed this noble art long ago and are exercising the last kicks of a dying horse. The youths of nowadays do not see any gain in practicing this art that has been neglected and almost dead.
How beneficial is Theatre art to the society?
I would like to remind us that theatre is beneficial not only to those who create performances but also to those who experience those theatre creations. Great works of art inspire, and the process of art making can do the same. Theatre is therefore a means by which people reflect on their current situation, define and re-invent themselves and their social world. The few of us who still believe and practice the art are always ready to pick up any contract from NGOs, government ministries, etc to sensitize, educate or create awareness on any subject that can bring about development in our dear fatherland.
How can an enabling environment be creating to bring back the theatre art in Cameroon?
I believe if we have an enabling environment as well as better equip theatre spaces like in other countries, the culture of theatre would have been resurrected and the youths would find it lucrative and self-satisfying taking the relay batten from the aging theatre practitioners. I believe the government is better placed through the ministry of Arts and Culture to salvage this situation.
Interviewed by Etienne Mainimo Mengnjo