Personal Web Site

The Cries of Yaoundé

It’s the street vendors who struck me when I arrived in Yaoundé, a city of 2.8 million people and growing fast. Everywhere I looked I could see young men and women informally hawking their wares about the capital. Artful and imaginative, these hawkers were not just selling the traditional fare of the street – drinks, sweets and snacks, skills and services – but anything that could be displayed on their bodies. 


The Yaoundé hawkers made me think of a highly specific format that has been around in art history for hundreds of years and which was used specifically for representing the urban poor during periods of rapid urbanisation. ‘The Cries’ documented the appearances and daily performances of the street criers of early modern Europe, over time constituting an extraordinary visual history of liminal populations operating on the margins of mainstream commerce yet playing a central role in marketing consumer goods to poorer customers.

Get into the vibe..with some Cameroonian music.: Dr Leo, Pauvreté, on ne se connait pas (‘Poverty, I don’t know you…)

Connections between the past and present are fascinating but complicated. Creating a modern ‘Cries of Yaoundé’ is about reviving the viewing processes they stimulate and to spotlight on a central component of Cameroonian street culture, one that can be accessed in a unique and original way.  The format provides a documentary and aesthetic framework through which it becomes possible to engage with the economic, social and political issues that the Criers of Yaoundé relay about the state of Cameroon today.

This example is taken from a set of Parisian ‘Cries’ published in 1739 by the French artist Edmé Bouchardon:

Left: Edmé Bouchardon, Breadboy (‘Le Boulanger’), red chalk drawing from Études prises dans le bas peuple ou les Cris de Paris (‘Studies drawn in the lower folk or the Cries of Paris’), 1737–46. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Right: Etching with engraving by Comte de Caylus & Étienne Fessard after Bouchardon. The Getty Research Institute, USA

Find out more here

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



Art historian of eighteenth century British art writing a book about depictions of the French in English graphic satire. Interested in art, satire, ethnicity and identity

Personal Links

View Full Profile →

%d bloggers like this: