Professor talks about Africa
Katherine J. White
April 21, 2010
Filed under Campus
She went to a country where the restaurants used menus made from banana peels.
Isabel Stierle, Bakersfield College biology professor, was the first speaker in the newly built Norman Levan Center for the Humanities, and her April 9 lecture concerned her trip to the many-dimensional Africa during her recent sabbatical.
This lecture marked the 10th Norman Levan faculty colloquium.
Stierle, B.A., B.S. and M.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an animal conservation enthusiast, also mentioned during the course of her lecture that many Africans refer to Africa’s oil resource as the “devil’s excrement,” because it does not benefit Africans.
Oil only benefits outside countries such as China who are interested in petroleum.
Wearing a royal blue dress spotted with African headdresses, Stierle stood in front of fabric panels of elephants, zebras and gazelles as well as a table covered with sunset-colored bowls depicting women churning and books she bought in Yaounde City, the capital of Cameroon.
Stierle, who took two semesters of French at BC in preparation for her trip to French-speaking Africa, spoke of the highs and lows of visiting what she saw as a richly diverse and somewhat troubled continent. Stierle said that one of the reasons why she wanted to go to Africa was to study either the Bonobo chimps or elephant migration in East Cameroon.
Stierle also mentioned during her lecture that leaded gas is widely used in Africa resulting in poor air quality, and children there are exposed to lead.
This exposure to lead has caused significant neurological problems for African children. Malaria, Stierle noted, is endemic to 106 African countries, including Zambia and the Congo.
Melitus diabetes continues to be a problem in African countries, she said.
Literacy among some of the major peoples including the Bamileke people is not complete and rests at about 64 percent.
According to Stierle, in Africa, between Muslims and non-Muslims, there is usually no dissension.
However, at some point during her trip, Stierle found out that some Fulani Africans in Nigeria murdered a number of Christians.
Cameroon, according to Stierle, is a “melting pot,” and people of various religious affiliations and ethnicities live in peace.
According to Stierle, there is a drive throughout Africa to acquire one all-encompassing national identity and to integrate all African nations.
On a lighter note, Stierle said that she saw blue- and yellow-faced Cercopithecine monkeys at an African park for endangered species and a jingoistic gorilla who demonstrated his dominance by pounding his chest and emitting a scream that echoed throughout the park.
While in Limbe, a coastal city founded by a Baptist pastor, Stierle said that she was told by a local cab driver that the best part of a fish to eat is the head.
Limbe, where Stierle and the members of her touring group ate a lunch, is one area where many languages are spoken including Pidgin English and French. Limbe’s beaches, according to Stierle, look dark because of volcanic activity.
Stierle mentioned that among Fulani African families, the more bowls one owns, the greater one’s status is within the family.
Traffic in many African cities, said Stierle, is frenzied and chaotic.
However, unlike many cities in many countries, fender benders in African cities are completely disregarded.
After ending the lecture with a Fulani “Useko,” which means “Thank you,” many lecture attendees expressed an interest in Africa.
Attendees also wanted to learn more about Africa including Susan Pinza, BC academic development professor and BC math professor Janet Tarjan.
“I love to hear about different cultures and peoples,” said Tarjan.