Film Reflection

Posted: July 17, 2012 by thanhn09 in Personal reflection

Western scientific knowledge

Or

Traditional knowledge

Honestly, at first, I found the story told by the griot really weird and unconceivable. How come a buffalo is in a disguise of a woman? How come a person was born to a buffalo? It somehow did not make sense to me.  Hardly had I discussed these things with my friends when I came to realize that the film was weird because I had seen in from the viewpoint that has been much affected by Western way of logics.  It turned out that I was the one who is weird by trying to understand African knowledge by using scientific, rational way of thinking.

Then, I took a look back on my own situation, and I realized that I am not much different from the boy in the film Mabo Keita. In Vietnam, we also have countless folktales and legends telling stories of Vietnamese history, culture and values., explaining the existence of non-living and living beings as well as natural phenomena.  They also contain a lot of details that seem to be so illogical from the perspective of scientific way of thinking.  Just like other Vietnamese, I got to know these stories through books, tale telling of the elder member in my family, and children programs when I was a liitle kid. I also learnt some of them in primary schools and junior high school. The strange thing is that I did not find those seemingly magic or illogical details awkward at all. In fact, I enjoyed them. However, as time goes, I grew up, entering high school and university later, cramming all the time with Western scientific knowledge, rational thinking, data and statistics, theories and models, and those folktales and legends “disappeared” from my life.  I hadn’t realized it at all until the talk with my friend as to how the film was so illogical to me.

I told such a long story just to show that how predominant Western knowledge has affected on my knowledge of Vietnamese traditional stories as well as my view towards kinds of knowledge that seemingly go against the principles of Western modern knowledge. I do not mean to put all the blame on the Western modern education with its rational, scientific characteristic. In fact, it cannot be denied that thanks to Western knowledge and technology, human being has made a great progress and consequent developments. However, it is time we gave a thought about the effect of the domination of Western knowledge over our community traditional knowledge in current curriculum and media products, and took a balance between two kinds of knowledge, isn’t it? Now, stories of young people, even the rich ones, saying they do not know who they are, what they are living for and such a thing are not a rare.  Is it because that they developed without a base of values, sense of identity, of belonging to a community? I think so. Every single of us was born, both literally and figuratively, and raised in a community and a culture, and one way for us to get connected to that community, or our origin, is through knowledge of that community. Given that now people tend to move around, either not staying permanently or never living in that community, and that any community is exposed to different cultures due to globalization process, the role of community knowledge in helping people to find back their origin and identity become more profound. Also, I think it is not right if young generations are not given access to that community knowledge in school curriculum and are even taught to attach priority to Western knowledge over tradition one.  Every kind of knowledge, irrespective of its birthplace, has its own value, offering different ways of seeing the world and relations within it. And isn’t it better for us to have diverse worldview rather than one single dominant Western viewpoint, which in many cases are not applicable to the reality at all?

In this globalization era, different cultures are non-stop interacting with each other and as a result, lots of people are getting lost among the chaos of cultures and values. Hence, even though the film takes place in the context of African countries in general, the situation shown in the film can be found in any community, and Mabo Keita is the image of anyone of us. The film’s lesson of valuing community traditional knowledge as the gate for sustainable, meaningful future of human being, therefore, applies to all communities in the world.

“ I teach kings the history of their ancestors so that the lives of the ancients might serve them as an example, for the world is old, but the future springs from the past.”  ( Griot Mamadou Kouyate )

Posted by Nguyen Thanh Hang.

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