The physical condition of Ibrahim has made him resilient to the challenge he faces in his every day’s life. From the age of three to nine years old, the young boy crawled down most of his childhood. In a rural African village, taboo is rampant in the communities. Fortunately, Ibrahim has less prejudice in Nditam and also the support of his entire village. In 2002, Ibrahim was granted with his ever first tricycle donated by HITIP (Hope International For Tikar People) a community-based organization working to improve the quality of life of the marginalized, indigenous people in Mbam and Kim region, where Ibrahim is from. The wheelchair has helped the young boy to gain his dignity – he couldn’t any longer be carried to run little errands such as going to the toilet, getting himself around the village and with his friends. The same tricycle helped Ibrahim to complete his primary education. Almost a decade after Ibrahim received his first wheelchair; he has become a strong young leader and a man with a vision for his life.
In Nditam, a lost village in the middle of the equatorial rainforest, with no infrastructure – no running water, no electricity and medical center, Ibrahim has developed skills of a technician – he is the tech repair guy of the village. He fixes flashlights, radios, wheelchairs, bicycles and even generators. The villagers are amazed how the talent of a young individual with disabilities has become a tremendous support to the community.
Beside his passion as technician, Ibrahim is a great fan of soccer/football game. In Cameroon, Soccer/football is not only a game as we would think, it is a religion, and everybody is involved; children, adolescents, women, adults and elders. And for those who are not naturally granted with two legs, they can go play with braces or crutches. Ibrahim knows early in his life that he wouldn’t play the ball himself, and for a while he cheered the teams sitting on a wheelchair and one day he felt like not only waiting next to the stadium, he wanted to be in the game and field on the grass under the wheels of his tricycle, since he cannot stand and run.
In the Summer 2009, HITIP, the same local organization launched the soccer/football championship among the villages. And the event took place in Nditam his home-based village; it was the perfect opportunity for Ibrahim to show how much he could contribute to the championship. Quickly, Ibrahim formed a team of young soccer players and started training them three times a week. And he baptized his team; Meliti Football Club of N’ditam. Meliti is the name of the most famous tikar gods, symbolized as a character of a mask, which are the spirits of Tikar ancestors. The mythology of Meliti is known as the son who committed a matricide – the murder of his mother. With his oval and flat back head, Meliti has an impressive appearance, and has a single red feather on the top of his forehead, that gives him a particular look. Meliti has one extraordinary affect on the Tikar people; they adore and hate him in the same time, mostly women and young females. However, this name brought luck to the team of coach Ibrahim who has won the first soccer/football tournament. Since then, Meliti Football Club has doubled final cup winner of the Championship in N’ditam.
Along with his exciting hobby as soccer lover, Ibrahim has been a fellow for the computer and solar provided by Linux Friends Solar. The young coach on the wheelchair is now preparing to complete the secondary education.
In the countryside of Africa where superstitious beliefs are rooted in the culture, taboo and prejudice are the daily challenge of women, poor or the disabled. Ibrahim’s achievements were brought to the attention of Narcisse Sandjon; a Cameroonian filmmaker based in the city of Yaoundé. Early in the summer 2015, a local Narcisse Sandjon came to interview and follow Ibrahim for documentary film project on his life. Narcisse said he was interested to film him because Ibrahim is one the rare person with disability who doesn’t beg. Then I thought maybe the coach on the wheelchair is kind of cool story.
While filming Ibrahim in N’ditam, the young man said: “Then years ago, my dream was to stand and walk. Today my dream is to leave this village to go beyond the borders of my country to receive knowledge and come back to make significant changes.”
To connect with Ibrahim Abdoulaye, contact:
Issa N. Nyaphaga
Artist, Cartoonist & Human Rights Activist
Professor of Contemporary African Art, Social Justice & Cultural Diversity
Santa Fe, New Mexico – USA - January 25, 2015.
All photos by O. Mebouack©
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