Northern Norway and Sahel are the regions where I have been working and teaching since nearly fifty years. Despite their cultural differences, the populations of those regions share many predicaments. Remotness from the major urban centers, bad infrastructure as well as cultural and linguistic differences have often led to the marginalization of people in Northern Norway, Eastern Niger and Northern Cameroon. For many years, such marginalization, besides its economic disadvantages, prevented local people from accessing sources of knowledge and information.
My aspiration has always been to foster knowledge production and teaching that would serve and empower local populations. Such goals were in line with those of the University of Tromsø, UiT, which opened in 1972 with a main objective to promote knowledge production and stimulate the interest in higher education among the local populations.
In my early years at UiT, I was especially engaged in gender studies: I opened the “Gender seminar” and headed UIT’s “Committee for gender equality”.
Since 1982, my academic activities in Norway were closely linked to research collaborations established through the work in Northern Cameroon. My aim has been to develop a sustainable North-South relationship, one that could enable creation and dissemination of shared knowledge with special focus on the groups that hitherto had little, if any, possibility to higher education and research. These goals were met by the establishment of the Ngaoundéré-Anthropos programme.
In 1997, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided funding for the visual anthropology Master’s programme in visual anthropology at the University of Tromsø (VCS). Besides it’s immediate didactic purpose, VCS provided yet another opportunity to maintain sustainable cross-cultural collaboration with Cameroon and other institutions in the South. The use of film as a tool for disseminating knowledge about other people proved to be a successful way of reaching out to wider audiences beyond academic circles.
In the years 2006-2012, VCS and our partners from Cameroon collaborated with the University of Bamako in Mali on a program “Images with capital ‘I’ – Developing Visual Literacy in Cross Cultural Communication”. The project was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) through the Programme in Arts and Cultural Education (ACE).
Currently VCS maintains collaboration with universities in Northern Cameroon and Mali through the VISCAM project which provides scholarships at Master and PhD levels and enables the exchange of students and teaching staff between the North and the South. It is funded by the NORHED programmme of the Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Education (SIU).