It is thanks to this woman that Cameroon has become the hub of caricature in Central Africa.
The director of the Yaoundé International Caricature and Humor Festival (Fescarhy) was buried on Saturday July 30 in Messam by Sa’a, the village of her husband René Ayina.
The sudden disappearance of Leontine Babeni creates a great void in the Cameroonian caricature family of which she was one of the pillars.
By creating this global meeting, it allows Cameroonian designers to meet each year, to get to know each other and to share their knowledge. “Babel has always had flair. At the time, I was laying out “Swallow what’s up?” » the journal of his association Irondel.
Our collaboration allowed him to meet many fellow designers such as Gaby, Solise, Retin, Tex Kana… Together we reflected on the structuring of this booming profession in Cameroon with the wind of freedoms of the early 90s which saw the birth of many newspapers and therefore created a need for cartoonists.
She then suggested the creation of a festival, the Fescary (Caricature Festival of Yaoundé) comué 2 years later in Fescarhy (Caricature and Humor Festival of Yaoundé which will allow cartoonists from Cameroon to meet, consult and to organize this profession whose practitioners encounter many difficulties”, explains his collaborator Malyk, cartoonist illustrator and also industrial maintenance engineer. He is the linchpin of Fescarhy, the Time Keeper.
From the first edition in 1999, the festival has enabled press cartoon and humor professionals to exhibit their know-how and revolutionize caricature and comics in Cameroon: Training in drawing professions, shows around numerous themes such as peace, democracy; freedom of the press; exhibitions… will notch encounters.
Many internationally renowned cartoonists follow one another at the Fescarhy podium: Georges Wolinski (1999), Tignous (2005) and Willem from the French weekly Charlie Hebdo; Paul Roux from Canada, Andy Mason and Zapiro from South Africa; Pov from Madagascar, Popa from Tanzania, Tayo Fatunla from Nigeria, Barly Baruti, Al’Mata and Assimba Bathy from Democratic Congo, Tawfik Omrane from Tunisia; Glez from Burkina Faso, Samba Ndar Cissé from Senegal; Papa Diawara from Mali, Pahé from Gabon, Didier Kassaï from the Central African Republic…; Cameroon will have seen beautiful people pass by.
Jean-Claude Fournier, the creator of Spirou, a well-known comic book character, also settled down at Fescarhy. Unforgettable moments that will keep the stamp of the one we affectionately call “The Director”. But all this does not give him a big head. “Babel was extremely kind, always listening and ready to lend a hand. Cameroonian culture is losing someone good. “I am appalled”, regrets Malyk in tears.
Died on Monday, July 4 at the Caisse de Yaoundé hospital, 5 days after her hospitalization. No one saw it coming. Because Léontine Babeni reassured her visitors of her famous ” it’ll be OK “. She was also in a hurry to perk up in order to celebrate her 60th birthday on July 5 and her retirement from Crtv where she was a presenter at Fm 94. Two missed appointments. Because the disease that we thought was benign was more serious than that: Dysfunction of the pancrea. She took away the great royal, she uprooted a baobab tree.
The announcement of the death of the one we affectionately called The director spread like wildfire. People converge at the hospital to reassure themselves that this is not a hoax. Alas. His photos invade Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… Snapshots that reveal his smile and his determined gaze.
Many messages of condolence will follow to the place of his family. Some wonder how her four children and René Ayina, her husband, will do without her. The testimonies are poignant. Her husband already regrets the departure not only of his half, but of his partner in entrepreneurship. He had left him the direction of the Festi-Bikutsi which became FIMBA (International Bantu Music Festival) in 2019. “Since day one, I have entrusted a part of me to you. I never had any worries as long as you were there. Your smile, your jokes, your talent, your gallantry, your know-how… I will miss everything. I want you to know that your leaving broke my heart. I will never forget all the good times we spent together. Go and rest in peace Madam Director”mentions the grieving husband.
Yvan, her eldest son, of the deceased regrets the disappearance of a mother present despite all her occupations. Allan remembers him as a parent who, in addition to her affection, taught him to face life.
Léontine also leaves many other orphans.
These many young people to whom she has given a chance and allowed to exist, to have a job, to win a prize, to take a plane, to have enough to eat, to create a business… Babel has always been there to sow good seed. “She was a woman leader, enterprising. Someone that nothing could stop. She had a knack for spotting the right seed and turning it into gold. Even when the projects failed, she always found the energy to continue and find a solution”, adds Malyk.
Indeed, the festival of which Mrs. Ayina was the director, also allowed many young people to make drawing and illustration a real job. Jean-Aimé Essama alias Jaimes talks about it with a lot of emotion and above all with gratitude. “Babel is a mother for me. The Fescarhy allowed me to perfect my talent and win prizes. I won the 1st and 2nd edition of the cultural prize launched by Transparency International in 2003. In 2004, I was crowned best Central African cartoonist in Grand Bassam. I published twice in Charlie Hebdo copté by Tignous”, recognizes Jaimes, Director of the communication firm Indigo Consulting and Director of publication of the satirical “1-Zero”. Like him, other young people have had opportunities, including scholarships for schools in the West, like Patrick Mamia, currently an art and communication teacher in France.
Babel will also be missed by the many listeners of Crtv FM 94, whom she joined as executive secretary. An artist at heart, she trained in animation and created programs such as “Mirror”, “Bloc note”, “Babel my friend”, “it concerns me”… Alongside an artist husband, therefore Réné Ayina, sound and telecommunications engineer and great cultural promoter, in particular patron of the Festi-Bikutsi, she trained in cultural entrepreneurship and took over the management of this festival. Through her company Babel’@rts, she brings her dynamism and creativity to the support force of Brasseries du Cameroun for ten years, for which she temporarily manages an army of musicians and hostesses in the Center region. . She will also be co-opted there as a consultant to create with her association Irondel, a drawing school through the project “The pencil of Nd’jino” which gives the chance to young aspiring designers to hatch their talent.