By Collette Lukong
The American people, through the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, are sponsoring a cultural preservation project, worth FCFA 30 million, to conserve the architectural heritage of The Achum House at the Bafut Palace.
“This program, funded through the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation, like others before it, demonstrates our respect for Cameroon’s unique national heritage treasures,” Chargé d'Affaires Matthew McKeever noted.
According to a press release issued by the American Embassy in Cameroon, dated July 18, the project will employ local artisans to restore and reinforce the palace’s structure, as well as collect, catalogue and display relics of the 600 year-old Bafut Kingdom. The artisans have been trained to maintain and rehabilitate other buildings in the palace complex. In addition, the project will fund the publication of a royal book to document the history of the palace and the work is expected to be completed in nine months, following an official launch planned for September 2014.
Historically, the palace compound was the site of violent resistance to German colonisation. During the last war in 1907, the entire compound, including The Achum House, was burned. An architectural masterpiece constructed entirely of local materials, the present Achum House, was built in 1910 and is the oldest structure of traditional origin in Cameroon. It has been restored several times since and remains today the crown jewel of the palace complex.
The restoration of The Achum House is one of the nine projects in Sub Saharan Africa selected for funding through the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation in 2014. Since its inception in 2001, the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation has supported more than 640 projects to preserve cultural heritage in 100 countries. In Cameroon, the Fund has contributed more than $140,000 since 2005 to preserve three cultural sites.