Projekt Pracowni Ilustracji i Fundacji ILLUSTRO im. Zygmunta Januszewskiego
Projekt ilustracji do kameruńskich baśni

How Sickness, Old Age and Death Began
At the beginning of the world, there was nothing like sickness, old age and death. People lived on and on forever. There was no pain, nor sorrow and everybody lived happily. But the world was almost becoming overpopulated or congested with people. One day, the dog and chameleon had a heated debate on the issue of the world’s population. Chameleon held the view that when people are born, they should grow old or fall sick and subsequently die.
When people die, this creates a chance for other people to be born to replace them. And the newborns will live on and subsequently die. This to the chameleon would guarantee the continuity of the cycle of death and life. But dog held a contrary view. To him, people should never fall sick, grow old or even die because all these cause sorrow and pain to mankind.
People should live on and on forever without falling sick, growing old or dying. Neither chameleon nor dog gave in to the other’s point of view. Each of them strongly maintained his point of view. No compromise. They took their case to God and asked him to say who between the two was right. Each of them defended his point of view so intelligently and well that God couldn’t find a fault in any of the two views. God being just, told them that their case could only be settled through a competition.“Look at that drum on top of that hill! Which ever of you can reach it first, is the winner. He can then drum it and announce his own point of view.
I shall with immediate effect adopt the point of view
announced thereof”, said God to the two contestants, chameleon and dog, in the presence of all the people in the world. When the race began, dog being a fleet-footed runner, ran as fast as he could, leaving
Chameleon many, many miles behind. Chameleon did not surrender but crawled slowly and steadily towards the mountain on which the drum was placed. In the course of the race, dog came across a dead buffalo. He didn’t hesitate settling to munch this free meat. He ate and ate and ate until the chameleon overtook him, climbed up the mountain and drummed:
“When people are born they should grow old, fall sick and die. When people are born they should grow old, fall sick and die. When people are born they should grow old, fall sick and die…”
The dog was stung by the drumming and the announcement made by the chameleon. He left
the meat, gathered all his strength and passed “v-e-e-p” (sound made by narrator), up the mountain. But it was already too late. God remained faithful to his pledge and chameleon’s announcement was registered.Since then, when people are born, they are subjected to sickness, old age and death. This was the origin of sickness, old age and death.
Origin of EVU (Evil Spirit) and AWU (Death) amongst the Beti-Fang
Long time ago, Zamba (God), the creator and father of humanity lived on earth among humans with
a human appearance. He had a very beautiful wife (Mingon) and a daughter. People in those days
were pleased to live on earth. This pleasure was due to the fact that neither death nor hunger existed,
because Zamba was always there to intervene. If a person was about to die, Zamba would revitalize
him/her; he would equally go to places forbidden to men every morning in search of food. People did
not therefore need to work in order to eat.
Nevertheless, there were two main rules established by Zamba. First, human beings were not
allowed to go to the sacred forest; and if one found himself there or came across a creature called
EVU (who was believed to live in that forest), the latter was not supposed to be taken back home.
Second, burials were forbidden in case a person died without the knowledge of Zamba. In total
respect of these two rules, people lived happily with Zamba.
One day, it happened that Zamba had to travel for a long journey. After bidding goodbye to
his people and his wife, he reminded them to respect his two laws in his absence. After he left, there
was famine since Zamba, the bread-winner, was not there to provide for them. The villagers started
hunting as a means of subsistence. Mingon was worried since there was no food for her and her
daughter. In this dilemma, unlike other women, Mingon went out hunting. On her expedition, she
entered the forbidden forest. Once there, she collected anything eatable and brought it home. She did
this for several days but the hunger persisted. One day as she was in the forest, she arrived at a
swamp and under a big tree she saw the carcass of an animal. She happily took it home and enjoyed
it with her daughter. The next day, she went to the same place, and this time around, she found a pile
of dead animals. Surprised by this discovery, she then asked:
Who is the one killing all these animals?
After questioning three times, she heard a voice from the tree;
“I am EVU; I am the one killing the animals”
The woman asked: “who are you”?
EVU replied: “I am EVU. I am the one who chases all the animals that are brought to the village by
Zamba every day”.
Mingon asked: “Are you the hunter”? “And where are you”? “Come out let me see you”.
EVU replied: “You cannot see me, I am a spirit”.
The woman asked: “If you are a spirit, why are you living in this forest? Come with me to the
village”. EVU accepted but the woman said “I don’t know how to carry you to the village”
At this stage, EVU turn into a frog and asked the woman to squat and open her legs, so that he could
enter in to her stomach. The woman did exactly what the EVU asked and the frog entered into her
stomach. She then took the animals back to the village. Once in the village, she told no one about
what had happened in the forbidden forest. She simply prepared food as she used to do every day and
gave it to her daughter. After a while, she went behind the house with some food. She then asked
EVU to come out of her stomach and eat. But the frog came out but refused her food. It rather asked
the woman to give it meat. Mingon said, “I have no meat to give you, but you can eat our cattle”.
The frog started killing the cattle of Mingon. Once the creature had eaten the last one, it
asked for more meat, and without the woman’s permission, it started eating the cattle of the whole
village. After eating all the animals, EVU started eating human beings. Once Mingon saw the
disaster, she asked EVU to return to the forest but the latter refused. The situation was getting worse
from day to day. The villagers then called a meeting in order to debate the sudden death of people
and cattle in the village. They did not find a concrete solution to the problem. Despite the worries of
the villagers, the woman did not tell them what she had done, and EVU continued killing people. She
nevertheless asked EVU to return to the forest and leave them alone. But the latter refused telling her
“I am comfortable here and I will not return to the forest.” Since the woman insisted, EVU asked her
that he could return to the forest on one condition: “if you allow me to eat your daughter, I will leave
the village” he said. Being aware of the fact that Zamba was to be back that day, she accepted the
proposal: “ok! then eat her and leave!” She did that knowing that her husband (Zamba) will resurrect
their daughter upon return. Satisfied by the woman’s answer, EVU ate part of Mingon’s daughter
but he did leave neither Mingon’s house nor the village.
Unexpectedly, two days after the daughter’s death, Zamba was not back and the remnant of
her daughter’s corpse was already in an advanced state of deterioration. The odour was unbearable.
Mingon had no other choice but to bury her daughter. It is only after the burial of the daughter that
Zamba appeared. After the regent had recounted the events that took place in Zamaba’s absence,
Zamba turned and asked his wife “who was responsible for all the atrocities”. She said she did not
know. Zamba insisted, and even threatened to lay hands on her. This time around she was unable to
lie to her husband. She revealed what she had done; then to the entire village. The revelation made
Zamba very angry because from all the villagers, his wife was the last person he expected to disobey
his laws. Nevertheless, he asked Mingon where he could find his daughter to bring her back to life,
and she answered:
“I had no choice but to bury her, the odour was becoming unbearable”.
ZAMBA asked: “But how could you do such a thing?” He was furious.
Since Zamba could not bring his daughter back to life, he departed from earth to the sky promising
never to return on earth again. He thus left humanity with Evu (evil spirit) and the consequence
brought AWU (Death) to the people. The woman remained on earth till the day she was eaten by
AWU because humans did not have the right to end one’s life.
This is thus how EVU (witchcraft or evil spirit) and AWU (death) found themselves among the
human beings.