Does Africa No Longer Need Griots?

Posted: July 28, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

Griots who are well-known for their resourcefulness and skillfulness in storytelling are fading away in African society while they are increasingly accepting the reality of widespread penetration of European culture. The work of a griot is to tell stories that are enticing, inspirational and never-ending, passing down traditions from generation to generation. However, a new form of knowledge and system are being introduced, the future seems not so right for them.

In the film, Keita, we have seen the presence of European culture in modern Africa: urbanization, lifestyles of family, form of bureaucratic government, outward-looking education, and language. Mabo, who is a descendant of Keita to whom Djeliba is a griot by line, speaks French with his parents, attends modern school of western knowledge, and uses fork and spoon when he eats spaghetti. His mother also does not do ordinary housework as she can keep a house maid. What she does is to make sure that her son, Mabo, studies well and succeeds in his education. Thus Djeliba becomes more and more alienated from Mabo’s mother as he prolongs his stay in their house. When he leaves their house, Mabo is left wondering and trying to understand the meaning of traditional concepts which are overtaken by his western education.

Young people are no longer interested in griots, let alone listening to their stories. This is mainly due to the arrival of outsiders who disrupted their own way of life by changing or eliminating traditions. Schools that require today’s young children to begin attending at the age of around 6 years take advantage of their innocent mind to plague with western ideologies, uprooting the role of griots in the society who are there to pass down traditional way of life and ideas. This seems quite a long battle between tradition and modernity. Who will win? The end will and should be resolved by those like Mabo.

Thal Sandy Tun

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