Chapter 2 :

Beauty through a Cultural Lens

The Ngondo festival proper, comes with a lot of pomp and fanfare. A week of activities including traditional rituals, canoe races, traditional wrestling, cultural dances, and a beauty pageant. But this beauty competition, is one with a difference, one which views beauty, from a cultural prism. What are these Sawa traditional standards of beauty? Several aspects come in to play here. Most beauty pageants would judge contestants, based on physical attributes and intellect. With the Miss Ngondo competition, knowledge and love for culture are primordial.
Each contestant is expected to trace their family lineage and sing the traditional rallying song of their “canton”(village), draped in a beautiful Kaba Ngondo (traditional garment of the Sawa woman)


Miss Ngondo 2019
Contestant singing village traditional anthem
Pageant catwalk
Crowning of Miss Ngondo 2019

Sarah Kala Lobe Kuta (Sawa matriarch and mother of Susan Kala Lobe), knows a thing or two, about traditional beauty standards. Well in her 80s, she recounts with clarity, how women took care of themselves, in her day. 

Sarah Kala Lobe Kuta, Sawa matriarch
With a head full of grey hair, she recounts what hairstyles were en vogue. Braids and thread-plaited hair, were the hairstyles considered as beautiful she says.  
Traditional African hairstyles
“Today I see most women using hair attachments these things only damage the hair. I would also advice young people to not bleach their skin, its dangerous.”

The Sawa culture, according to her, holds women in high esteem as the woman is the root of all families. She gets nostalgic when asked about beauty tips from when she was a maiden.

“We would apply clay masks on our faces, and let it sit for a while, then we would wash it off. For our skin, we would use “Manyanga”, palm kernel oil. This oil would be left in the sun until the dark sediments settled and then the golden oil is what we used on our hair and skin.“
Palm oil and palm kernel oil

The effects of these natural concoctions are visible on Ma Kala Lobe, as the elderly woman is aging gracefully.

Sarah Kala Lobe Kuta, Sawa matriarch

From its onset in the 1840’s, the Ngondo defended the interests of the entity known today as Cameroon, denouncing the excesses of the colonial authorities! 

 king of Ambasse Bey is honored at the 2019 Ngondo, for his role in bringing this Sawa traditinal rhythm, to a global audience.



Special Thanks :  -AfricAvenir International Foundation
– Léopold Magloire B.YANDO of ACCOMPI+ Agency
Narration : Moity UWAIFO AKONJANG
Photos/VideosMerling CHIMEGNI
Editing : Martin NZOKPA, Hervé DJOUFACK
Development : Landry LEUNKEU, Abdoulaye Mougnol 
Coordination : TEHWUI LAMBIV, Elvire KABA, Mireille BISSECK
General Supervision : Charles NDONGO

© CRTV 2019