Alcohol and Colonialism
Weren’t they the thousand bottles my master had opened up in front of that makossa-dancing man? Beaufort, tritri, chômé, nsansanboy, quatre fois quatre, gwan, gnôle, odontol, petit Guinness, and so on: in a word, jobajo. (28)
Alcohol obviously plays a huge role in Dog Days, as a lot of the action takes place in a bar. I noticed as I was reading, particularly in the above passage, that a lot of the alcohol they drink is foreign. From what I could find of the ones listed above, the alcohol is a mixture of Cameroonian, French, German, and British alcohol. This makes complete sense as Cameroon was colonized by France, Germany, and Great Britain.
The foreign alcohol is significant because it turns men lazy and gluttonous. Throughout Dog Days, we see how nobody does anything productive when drunk. In the midst of this economic crisis, everyone opens up bars and imports foreign alcohol and they sit around doing no real work. At one point there is a conversation in The Customer Is King about what the President should do about opposition leaders overseas, and a customer says of the opposition leaders:
“At least if they come back, they’ll be of some use. Instead of wasting their time criticizing, they’ll build the country with us.”
Panther’s voice said, “Mbe ke di? Ou mbe ke di? What are you saying? That you’re building Cameroon, sitting there behind your jobajo?” (73)
In the novel, alcohol is constantly getting men into fights or leading them to suicide, and the character of “Alcoholic Candy” represents the link between alcohol and death. Alcoholic Candy digs graves, and his name leads to the implication that alcohol digs men’s graves, too.
What does this say about colonialism? The alcohol that is driving these men to their graves is provided by the countries that used to colonize Cameroon, and to me this signifies how colonialism brought terrible things like laziness and gluttony into Cameroon. However, some of the alcohol in the book is distinctly Cameroonian – such as the odontol – so I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Even so, I still believe that there is a clear message here about some of the customs and products and influences brought in by the colonizers and the negative effects they had on the people of Cameroon.