In Part 2 of U of Tsukuba instructor Sam Nfor’s life story, he describes the interest in theatre that brought him here. Drama informs not only his approach to ESL, but is integral to his life. The take-away: Personal commitments should always underlie our pedagogical choices. Our students deserve nothing less.
To the Land of the Rising Sun: My Journey
My journey from Cameroon to Nihon is a unique one. Theatre, which has informed my life for as long as I can remember, brought me to this country. Initially, I was exposed by the religiosity of my parents, who got me active in children’s Sunday school activities from an early age. My late father was a lay preacher in our local Baptist church, and my mother is a church elder.
I developed my interest in acting taking part in religious plays to mark Christmas and Easter. I joined a high school drama club, and was active in the University of Yaoundé theater troupe as an undergraduate. While working on my Master’s degree in Theater Arts, I became artistic director of the Gong Theatre, a semi-professional troupe I created with friends.
Upon graduation, I decided to go professional. With friends, I toured the country doing performances based on students’ examination syllabi reinforcing through theatre their classroom learning. Also, we were involved with consciousness raising and mobilization on issues like governance, democracy, human rights, rights of women and girls, and certain harmful aspects of traditional culture. We also addressed crises of corruption and embezzlement.
As expected, sponsorship was rare and the theatre-going public in Cameroon timid. I taught high school literature as a side job. I also worked on the organizing committee of the annual Cameroon International Theatre festival that brought together professionals worldwide. There in August 2000 I met Japanese stage designer Odagiri Yoko of The Japan Center of the International Theatre Institute who directed a stage design workshop. She recommended me to The Agency of Cultural Affairs and I won a one-year fellowship to study Noh and Kyogen in 2001.
I have since played leading stage roles here and used drama activities in English instruction. Two major successes are memorable: taking 10 actors to Cameroon for a multi-cultural performance in 2005 on a Japan Foundation grant, and singing the Cameroon national anthem solo at the National Stadium in Tokyo before a friendly soccer match. I plan to continue to live here and exploit the many opportunities available.