Portada Dualla Misipo

Der Junge aus Duala. Ein Regierungsschüler erzählt …

Dualla Misipo: The Boy from Duala

By Dualla Misipo, edited by Jürg Schneider in the Afrika-Archiv series as volume 5. Köppe Verlag: Köln, 2022. The Afrika-Archiv series is edited by Beatrix Heintze and Richard Kuba.

Self-testimonies by Africans from the early days of colonialism are rare. This also applies to Cameroon, a German colony or protectorate since 1884, as the euphemism was then. The diary of the Cameroonian missionary teacher Richard E. Mbene (1879-1907) is one such self-testimony; another, which describes the reverse path of a young Cameroonian, from Cameroon to Germany, is The Boy from Duala by Dualla Misipo. The publication with a literary claim, which it actually fulfils for long stretches, was published in 1973 by the renowned publishing house Kraus Reprint, in Nendeln, Principality of Liechtenstein, as a copy of a typewritten manuscript that still bore the author's handwritten correction marks. The text, a mixture of autobiography, ethnography and non-fiction, whereby the border between the genres is not always clear, tells the story of Stephan Dualla Misipo, who travels to Germany as a twelve-year-old boy, goes to school in Herborn, a small town in central Hesse, and then to Giessen. It is probably in Frankfurt that he meets and falls in love with Luise Dutine, the daughter of a post office clerk and stenographer. The story of their love affair, the family's doubts about the future viability of a union between a black man and a white woman and the hostility of the environment towards the couple are the central theme of the book. Misipo does not break up despite all the adversities and injuries. Even after the couple leaves the country with their young son in the early 1930s because of the rise of National Socialism, he does not become bitter. Throughout his life, he believed in the peaceful coexistence of all people, regardless of their skin colour, gender or faith.

Among academics interested in the colonial history of Cameroon and Germany, The Boy from Duala was well known. It was equally appreciated by those interested in black African literature, but the book was difficult to access and had not been available for a long time, except, with luck, antiquarian. All the more fortunate was the circumstance that we were able to locate Dualla Misipo's grandson in France and obtain from him the rights for a new edition of his grandfather's book. After the laborious transfer of the original text into a digitally editable format, various proofreading processes and research on Misipo in all possible directions, which brought to light some new facts and especially unpublished picture material, the new edition in cooperation with the Frobenius Institute and the graphic designer Rafael Barganza could be published by Köppe Verlag in January 2023 after almost 2 years of work on the manuscript. We wish it a good reception and are now working on a French translation of the German text.