In March of 1994, I had recently finished my service in the Peace Corps, and I lingered in Cameroon for about three extra months not wanting to leave the town of Bali-Nyonga.
This is part of a much longer video I created to document my life, work, and friends in Cameroon. (Watch closely, and you’ll see my mancrush showing.)
The cameraman is John Justino. My fiancee saw this recently, and thought that we were being a little mean to Ni Gre. She’s probably right. That’s what friends are for.
The Mboko talk is just a bit of street slang added to the Cameroonian Pidgin English. Think of when middle-class Americans say “bling” and it sounds ridiculous. That’s kind of what’s going on here.
For Armchair Anthropologists:
In that part of Cameroon, “Ni” is an informal title of respect. Imagine two ways of saying “Mister.”
“Ni” is for mere adult males. The other–“Ba”–is for esteemed elders, such as your grandfather, or someone who has demonstrated advanced wisdom or responsibility.
“Gre” is just a nickname for Gregory. Put them together, and you get “Ni Gre” which translates roughly to “Junior-Mister Greg.”
I’ve been in touch with Gregory’s niece who lives in the US. She keeps referring to Gregory as “Ba Gre.” To my ears, it makes him sound just a bit too respectable. Does that mean I can’t give him shit in Pidgin anymore? I certainly hope not.
DanaAugust 12, 2008 at 11:38 pm
Oh my! I was on Google and, going with a whim and a bout of nostalgia, searched “ni gre cameroon”. And here it is.
I spent a month in Bali and Ni Gre was one of the kindest, most friendly people I spent time with. The dinner I ate at his home with his family and our group’s late-night search for puff puff and beans are my most cherished memories from Cameroon. Your video brought to life his generous smile and laugh! When I was there in March ’06 the shop had taken the form of a mini “Migros” due to the influence of the Swiss at Prescraft, but it had the same feel as in your video.
Thank you for posting this! It made my day, week, month…and though he might not remember me, I certainly remember Ni Gre as a highlight of my time in Cameroon. I hope you have a blast during his visit!
TedAugust 12, 2008 at 11:59 pm
Gregory and I had a lot of fun in Arizona before the wedding, and he was a camera-hogging hit at the reception. He’s still in the USA for another week, if you happen to be in the Washington DC area.
If you’d like to contact him, you can send me a message using this form, and I can send you more details.
Christopher SpadoneJuly 23, 2019 at 7:27 pm
Came here to look at a few things following the Johnny Clegg story. My wife and I used to frequent Ni Gre’s; my oldest son was born in Bali and loved to get treats at Ni Gre. Thanks for the memory