This kabba is sewn
with many pieces of cloth from Cameroun and surrounding countries. According
to Frangoise, a seamstress ofYaounde (which is located in the French speaking
part of Cameroon), this use of many types of fabric is called "Cherchez
le Mot." Frangoise wore several examples of this type of clothing.
My favorite was a two-piece top and pant outfit that included squares
of material no larger than two inches each.
She explained that this piecing together of fabric is fashionable and
is called "Cherchez le Mot" because the seamstress is careful to always
include swatches of cloth that include writing. Part of the fun of the
garment is in looking for these swatches.
I enjoy this type of garment because the pieces of cloths are beautiful
and offer insights into the culture and environment of the country. On
this particular garment are thirteen different cotton fabrics. Images
represented on the fabrics include coffee (an important export); dragon
flies; fowl; various seeds; grains and beans; butterflies; flowers; leaves
and beads. At each shoulder are small pieces of cloth that when closely
examined reveal the words: "MPS Reconcilier Pour Construire" [probably
a political slogan]. The visual for these words is a rifle and hoe crossed
in front of a burning torch.
The beauty of this type of garment for a seamstress is that she can be
creative and waste nothing. Wasting nothing is a very visible Cameroonian
When this kabba was shown to a Cameroonian from the English side, she
said that this garment is most definitely not "Cherchez le Mot" but a
"bastardization" of a very rich many colored type of cloth that is created
in Ghana. She also suggested that the French Cameroonians took the name
"Cherchez le Mot" from a popular television game show. --"
And so it goes." Kurt Vonnegut
Could it be that both women are correct, and that both the French and
English, while instilling their culture in their respective areas of Cameroon,
managed to also transfer that seemingly instinctive distrust, disrespect
and weariness that the English and French seem to have for one another?