- by Chuck Cavanaugh, Las Vegas, NV
It’s rather of an interesting story how all these marvelous paintings happened to come all the way to Las Vegas from Cameroon. The long version of events is detailed in my Africa Travel Journal. The short version of events follows.
I was visiting my long-time friend Rob, who in 2007 was working at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon. I stayed for a month. We went on a road trip around Cameroon, which included a stop in the city of Bamenda, located in one of Cameroon’s two English-speaking provinces. Leaving the hotel in the morning, we noticed some remarkable paintings adorning the lobby area. These were unframed, just on simple wooden stretchers, but they sure caught our attention.
After a while, it occurred to us to lift one of them off of the wall to see if there was any information on the back. Sure enough, there was the artists name and even his phone number. So, we phoned Angu Walters. It turned out, he was right across town and he invited us to come over to his home, which also serves as his workplace. We parked on a busy street and walked up an alley to his simple home – which was just filled with paintings. It was quite a shock to find so many amazing paintings here. I have taken up describing the experience as stumbling into Merlin’s cave – an abundance of treasure in the most unlikely setting.
Angu was a most gracious host, self-effacing, big smile. Rob and I each picked out a painting – which was not easy, let me tell you. Angu asked us for a ride back to our hotel and, before we left him there, I’m glad I thought to hand him back my new painting, The Flutist, and asked him to let me take his photo holding it.
After I left Cameroon, Rob kept in touch with Angu for the remaining year of his stay in the country. Angu gave him about 20 paintings on consignment, and Rob was able to sell most of them to people passing through. Rob had responsibility (among other things) to look after all sorts of Westerners passing through the city of Douala. When they came to his house, they would generally always notice the fine paintings and Rob would talk about Angu, and sell them a souvenir of their visit!Angu’s paintings are on display in some other hotels around Cameroon. And he has a base of support in the Netherlands, owing to Bamenda being the Sister City of the Dutch city of Dordrect. But Rob’s sale of so many paintings really, really helped Angu a lot. When it came time for Rob to move on to another country (South Korea) Angu handed over about 25 paintings, asking Rob to take them with him and sell them, if possible. Rob – being both a big fan and, by now, a good friend – was happy to help. In the end, the best course of action seemed to be to hand them over to me, and I made a web site for the paintings (making web sites is what I do).
My arrangement with Angu was (and is) that all the money from sales goes to himself. I wire the money by Western Union, deducting only the most direct expenses: shipping + insurance; the PayPal fee when I am paid that way; and the Western Union fee. My reward is, every so often I get to claim a painting for myself. This makes me very, very happyLots of inquiries and sales come through the web site directly. The web site ranks highly at Google when you search for African Art, and it’s at the top if you search for Cameroon Art. I also promoted the site through Craigs List and among my friends. Sales were slow, but sort of steady. By September, 2010, I was running short and Angu sent me 25 more paintings! I was very surprised, and it seemed like I needed a new approach to increase sales. That’s when I rented space and began exhibiting at the First Friday art show in Las Vegas.
That went pretty well, and the sales increased (as did my expenses). Angu’s paintings now have drawn a lot of admiration from among the visitors to First Friday and from among other artists. Early in 2011, we moved the paintings into a space at the back of the Joseph Watson Gallery at The Arts Factory. Joseph became a big admirer and has in mind some ideas for future promotion of Angu. Another admirer, and friend, enlisted her brother in Baltimore as a supporter and we sent him some paintings. So they were being scattered rather widely and Angu sent another roll of paintings to the USA in June, 2011.
We have high hopes for the future. That’s why we have undertaken a complete redesign of the web site (June, 2011). We’ve also created a Facebook page just for the paintings. Lots of stuff is going on and we thank you for your interest. Please ‘LIKE’ the Facebook page and sign on to our Newsletter so that you can keep informed. Thank you for reading this!