Heritage

"Everybody has a heart and everybody's heart beats."

Fred taught us to "fill our basket of knowledge" (our minds), encourage community, honor wisdom and creativity, and respect human dignity.

 

 

Originally from Melim in Nso, Cameroon, West Africa, Fred moved to the United States to study studio arts in the early 1980's. He obtained a BFA degree from Bemidji State University and achieved his Master of Arts degree and a master's in African art from St. Cloud State University. He credited his artistic training to his parents. He built many beautiful drums, out of native Minnesota wood, which he described as a natural extension of the body. "Everybody has a heart and everybody's heart beats."

Fred was very active in the community and served as a part of the BFU Minnesota Chapter, a Cameroon organization. His passions in life were music and art. He especially loved educating the youth of central Minnesota about music and drumming.

"Uncle Fred" as he was known to the many children he worked with, was a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist in Education and participated in many folk arts programs regionally. He painted murals with children and taught young people to build and play drums in camps and classes throughout Minnesota; particularly in St. Cloud, Bemidji, Minneapolis, and Duluth. He did extensive work with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, built an African house for the Wilder Foundation and appeared on Newton's Apple. He performed with Black Umfolosi when they visited Duluth in 1998 as part of the Duluth Children's Museum's Whole World Festival.

He was involved with BFU-USA, a cultural organization bringing together and providing support to people of Bui Division, Cameroon living in the United States. On a 2004 visit to Minnesota, the King of Cameroon's Bui Division honored Fred with the title of Mformi, a leader of Nso traditions and representative of the king. Fred was a gracious ambassador of good will, a friend to everyone he met, and especially loved by children who have kept their beads, drums, and shakers and will remember him when they play. His sense of humor was legendary.


Embedded in his teaching of drum making and playing, were the values of respect for elders and respect for the earth. In addition to a hand crafted drum, his students left his classes with an understanding of the value of personal responsibility and education. "My art carries my philosophy of life: simplicity. I try and look at life understanding it from the simplest forms. We need to be connected to the earth; then we can appreciate each other and have peace."