Sotigui Kouyate (1936-2010)

Posted: September 29, 2012 by phermc10 in Film and its Actor

Sotigui Kouyate, one of the first actors of Burkina Faso whose cinema is a significant part of West African film industry with its establishment of the film festival FESPACO in 1969. He was the father of the film’s director Dani Kouyate, belonging to the Mandinka ethnic group, one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa as well as successors of the Mali Empire.

The members of Kouyate family serve as griots to the Keita clan since 13th century. Keitas provide amenities to the Kouyate in return for advice and help for various affairs.

Sotigui Kouyate was born in Mali on 19, July 1936 and began his career in acting in 1966. In the same year, he established a film company with 25 people. He appeared in over two dozen films. In Keita, he played the central role of Djeliba Kouyate.

After travelling in the United States and Europe from 1990 to 1996 for his story-telling theatre show, he said in an interview (October, 2001) as follows:

“ I’m fighting a battle with words because I’m a storyteller, a griot. They call us masters of the spoken word. Our duty is to encourage the Western countries to appreciate Africa more. It’s true that many Africans don’t really know their own continent. And if you forget your culture, you lose sight of yourself. Our strength lies in our culture. Everything I do as a griot comes from this rooting and openness.”

He won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale Film Festival in 2009 for his role in the film “London River”. Sotigui Kouyate died in Paris at the age of 74 on 17, April 2010.

Thal Sandy Tun

The Two Teachers

Posted: September 27, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

A griot in West African society functions as a story-teller, historian, praise singer, poet and musician. Djeliba teaches Mabo what lacks in his subjective curriculum at school by telling his ancestor’s life back  centuries ago. He raises the question of certainty of survival of indigenous values with their knowledge and culture. He snubs at the nature of top-down modern education system. In that way M.Fafana is a teacher who intellectually and emotionally is not amalgamating enough with his students’ learning; he teaches because he is given a salary, curriculum and classroom as well as a stick with absolute authority to roam among students. He promotes rote learning and cramming to his students for finishing one grade after another. He may be a dutiful teacher but not a responsible one seen through the eyes of Djeliba.

On the other hand, the griot knows exactly what his own society needs and what he should educate the posterities to meet it. He also encourages Mabo to pronounce his curiosity and ask himself. Young people have to ask themselves to learn deeply about their own inspirations, strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, they need the courage to quit what they really are not into and decide what appeals them. Sadly, society does not give that chance much to everyone, especially education system by which we begin engaging in restless race.

Thal Sandy Tun

African Storytelling

Posted: September 23, 2012 by phermc10 in Context of Film

Since time immemorial, storytelling has functioned to pass traditions, codes of behavior, knowledge, wisdom and social roles which are essential to keep the African communities alive and united. People do look up to their storytellers, griots, and their marvelous stories engrossing them in thoughts, faiths and emotions of the human mind.

These stories are full of metaphors, connotations, symbols as well as imagery like a film. They depict an assortment of myths, rituals and songs to educate the audience. It was the only way that enriched African people’s daily lives when writing was not yet developed.

Central to African film production, oral stories are used to show what Africa looks like and the social and cultural issues it is facing today. In Keita, one might wonder the modest look and tone of the film which is about the great ancient empire, Mali, but it is usual for African film makers to avoid the reliance on costly special effects techniques to show what they would like to. This is a note-worthy point for the film makers in the third world to learn how to claim their histories, cultures and pride through the possible and effective way. The most important idea is the message they want to send.

Thal Sandy Tun

Production of knowledge and socio-economic development is what schooling system we have today accomplishes. However, the point is that school encourages us to perceive the structure of hierarchy in our society such as carrot and stick rules by teachers as well as high number of failures schools want to happen for its limited space upward. That is because in a capitalist society only a small handful of highly specialized people manage the economy and running of state. There will also be workers and technicians who are differently layered in accordance with their roles in society. Therefore, schooling causes us to revere a system run lopsided, making people always vulnerable to their disadvantage by that system itself which apparently hopes to do good for them.

Therefore, the knowledge produced by the modern schooling is creating divisions and competitions among us. It damages traditional values which integrate communities such as helpfulness, cooperation, and honesty. Another thing is the importance of the role of money is exaggerated in order to fit into the materialistic society. Finding money is not easy and thus people use unethical and dishonest means to improve their producer surpluses which affect the consumers. Today almost every food we eat and every commodity we buy is adulated in one way or another because of unethical businesses which are hard to control.

People above will never learn that some people become incapacitated because of the system they insist. That’s one reason why we are having wars and natural disasters as institutions make us to rely on them. The society being created through our modern schooling is not sustainable any longer.

Thal Sandy Tun

Before the invasion of European imperialists in African countries, education was the effort of local community elders who responsibly passed down indigenous knowledge and traditions to young boys and girls for their later roles in their own communities. Indigenous or traditional knowledge is the only and essential source of wisdoms that is highly relevant to the existence and continuation of socio-economic as well as cultural life of every society in the world. Their legitimacy can be noted from another important fact that is the increasing failure in educational policy goals to create educational and social development in African and other societies in this era of globalization and neocolonialism.

When European imperialists came, with the power of gun powder and high imperialist notion of racial superiority and liberalism, degraded indigenous institutions in their colonies. The European education policy for their colonies seeing the main function of education as secular and functional, neither moral nor conservative, became essential for being the ladder to advancement in the modern institutional hierarchy adopted in the colonial society, in  administration, law or commerce and of course, it just benefitted the running of the colonial rule. Thus schooling was no longer about traditional knowledge and rituals. Instead, it eliminates or attempts to make them seem inferior. Modern schooling trains young people to compete with their counterparts all over the world, such as Asia, Africa and Europe, in global economy and social aspirations. This interconnectedness and unstable nature of global events has given rise to unemployment problem, education and social development gaps as well as poverty and vulnerability of people.

Thal Sandy Tun

A Matter of Choice

Posted: August 16, 2012 by phermc10 in Personal reflection

As governments decide themselves to adopt an education of which curriculum is filled with western industrialideas, children and youth are trained to become industrial workforce instead of caretakers of local cultural values. Young people move into urban areas where industrial development exists, and as these industries are operating based on the highly competitive global economy on which they have little knowledge or control, they are very vulnerable to unemployment as well as loss of identity and self-esteem. The difference lies in the assimilation of community involvement in the education system which can make a difference for their survival.

What this western education does without being noticed is it degenerates local traditions and way of life from one generation to the next. The curriculum is copied from other industrial countries as it is easier to copy than invent one’s own. Therefore, these curriculums lack the kind of knowledge and values that regional and local communities need to hand down and survive. Then local neighborhoods are soon destroyed with pollution from industries in cities. Old people are left without any relatives to take care of them as the education causes out migration of their off springs.

How many parents are there like Mabo’s mother who wants her son to work in industries? Of course this is a trend with young people today in search of an education and a job. Yet take some time to think what your future will become. You will be stuck in a desk with a computer. You get home late and do not have a word with your children for a week who are also distracted in a virtual world. You switch on TV and watch the news of natural disasters around the world without feeling anything about the victims as they become so frequent. Before you go to bed and sleep, you call your parents living in your hometown to say decencies and good night. What a boring, routinized and robotic life it must be!

Thal Sandy Tun

Two Kinds of Knowledge

Posted: August 9, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

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Western education mainly trains young people to become applicable for industries which concentrate in urban areas. Many young people from rural areas move to cities in order to work in those industries, leaving traditional livelihoods of their own communities behind. From that increasing urbanization, there are many problems facing cities today such as traffic congestion, air pollution, sanitation, waste disposal, overcrowding and crimes.

The decay of traditional livelihoods along with disruption to social adhesion is something to think about in terms of familial values, lineage, mutual respect and guardianship. Many young people are moving away from their root as they graduate and plunge into corporate world. Very few think of returning to their original neighborhoods. There are two reasons for this: the first one is that they think they are no longer fit into working in the local environment because of the study they pursue at universities which is mainly for working in a multinational company and the second one is that they do not know how to contribute to the preservation of local community which largely lacks in their curriculum.

Therefore, in light of the film, we have to do something about school curriculums in order to find a balance between modern western knowledge and traditional local knowledge which can guide us towards achieving a community of young and old people living sustainably on their own land.  We should not forget that sustainability is not just about the environment; it is also about the systems and peoples’ desires on which our societies are built upon.

Thal Sandy Tun