His first contact with Japanese culture was at the Cameroon International Theater Festival (CITFEST), an annual event in Cameroon. Japan was represented at the Festival, and that led him into the world of Japanese theatrical performance, especially Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki.
"I was astonished at how different they are from the plays we were putting on. Plays in Cameroon have a theme, a message that guides the story line. Noh and Kyogen express something not through a story or theme, but through delicate shadings of emotion linked together. And the feelings are not expressed directly they seem to emanate from the actor's soul. I found that method fascinating, and wanted to study it more."
He began dreaming about going to Japan, and in August 2000 he did. He arrived there on invitation from the Japan Centre of International Theatre Institute, and studied for three months under the famous kyogen master, Nomura Mannojo. Now he is doing research on kyogen and Japanese traditional dance, on a two-year scholarship from the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
These days, he is practicing the Seiha Ichiyama style of Japanese dance in Ota, Tokyo. His teacher, Ichiyama Kimie, praises his remarkable sense of rhythm and his mastery of ma, the uniquely Japanese dramatic pause. Obviously used to wearing a kimono, he gets plenty of friendly attention at the training center, where everyone calls him "Sam." When summer comes, he is likely to be at some local Bon-odori festival with his teacher, showing Japanese people how to dance the traditional way.
"The Japanese people are polite, and that is obvious during a conversation what is said is not as important as maintaining a pleasant, cordial atmosphere. Even when it's not clear what someone is saying, it's best to let the conversation flow, with only slight interjections here and there. This emphasis on mood rather than content may have something in common with Japan's traditional performing arts."
Ngwa lives on his own in an apartment in Tokyo. When he is not practicing Japanese traditional dance, there is a good chance he is participating in the performance of a modern Japanese play. One day, he hopes to promote theatrical ties between Cameroon and Japan.
"When we perform the older forms of Japanese traditional dance, our whole body is in balance and we may have to use our voice in different ways. So anyone who studies Japanese dance is getting basic training in acting. That's another reason I want to introduce Japan's ancient dance styles to Cameroon."
Ngwa says that interaction among cultures is good for both countries. "That's an ideal I hope my country and Japan will embrace by supporting performances of drama and dance."