The Riverside International Friendship Gardens opened a new garden Thursday dedicated to the country of Cameroon. The garden is located inside Riverside Park in La Crosse, which is a sister city to Kumbo, Cameroon.
The international garden exists to honor cultures throughout the world. “We are all connected to one another,” said Chuck Hanson, president of the Riverside International Friendship Gardens. “We’re all part of this good earth and we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our posterity to keep the good earth viable and healthy for future generations.”
Kumbo is the latest sister city of La Crosse to be honored with a garden, others include ones dedicated to China, Germany, and Russia. The relationship between Cameroon and La Crosse started over 20 years ago when two sisters got together.
“How could they work together in a different way and one Franciscan sister turned to the other and said ‘that sounds pretty good, we should try that.’ One of them was Cameroonian and one of them was from Wisconsin,” said Sister Eileen Mckenzie, President of Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Since then the two cities have formed a good relationship with one another. Red, yellow, and green can be seen throughout the garden, which are the three colors of the Cameroon flag.
Organizers said they had to get creative to honor Cameroon with this garden being that the climate in Africa is a little different than here in La Crosse.
“We convey the culture through sculpture, as you can see before us in the fountain,” Hanson said. “This is the Mami Wata. She is a fictional, mythical character in Cameroon. The protector of the waters, making sure those children don’t stay in too long or go out too far.”
The park also features a raffia palm art installation, since the winter weather wouldn’t allow for the real thing. For some native Cameroon people living in America, the garden means a lot to them.
“Khiafan told us that ‘well we don’t need to take our children back to Cameroon now. We can take them to La Crosse, Wisconsin and learn about our culture,” Hanson said. Organizers say they have plans to add more sculptures to the garden in the future.