Hello, so this week I am going to be posting a series of Historical academia. These are Documentary Journals I write after watching a series of Documentaries by Dr.Gus Casely Hayford. He made documentaries about several African kingdoms, and what I am posting here are my written journals for each documentary. Enjoy!
Prompt #1. What was the most profound scene from this film and why do you think so?
The most profound scene for me in the film was ‘the Dogon Animist Dance Scene’. This was very intriguing for me. Something that I have not seen anywhere before. There is not even a slight likeness of this scene in any Art I have come across, except that this scene reminded me of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things fall Apart’, the scene where the villagers are witnessing spirit dance during a village celebration when one of the masked spirits, like the narrator’s voice recognized, danced with a limp similar to Okonkwo’s very own.
I felt like it was the most mesmerizing thing in the whole film, despite the fact that the narrator was focused on finding the relationship between the Malian communities and the Beninese. It is indicated in the film that Benin is highly animist basing on their art, especially the bronze Benin Plaques and the symbolism in sculptures of Leopards and snakes like that on the roof of the Oba’s court. There was a revelation that this form of art could not be found in the Djenne jeno parts of Mali, even though they were found in the Dogon Parts. What was even more striking was the fact that even though the residents of Djenne are mostly moslem, they still have a lot of animist traditions like the spirit bricks inserted at the corners and center of the house when it is being built, making it clear that the only reason they had no sculptures was because Islam forbids it.
Throughout the film, from Dr. Gus’ arrival in Dogon land, evidence of these animist beliefs became even more recurring, some architecture almost similar to that in Benin. This is indicated through the roofing, the iron-smelting, designs on walls for children among others. But this is mostly depicted through the Dogon dance. The most appealing of these includes the Haran dance, not to mention the snake and Lizard dances.
The tendency to practice these animist deeds in architecture seems not to be a matter of only West Africa, but other parts of Africa as well like the East. In Uganda for example, the act of putting a spirit at the foundation and corners of the house before its full establishment is practiced, even though in a direr way, where people cut off animals and birds’ necks to fill these places with blood, lest it would sacrifice on its own. Like in Benin, some animals are respected and treated as totems, forbidding people from endangering them, lest it causes harm to their future. The similarity of these facts to me was most profound, thus more evidence that Africa is indeed a land with full traditions that cannot be easily erased, and that boarders are indeed imaginary lines only created by the colonialists, for nothing in the African culture can really be changed.
WATCH DOCUMENTARY HERE BBC4’s LOST KINGDOMS OF AFRICA: WEST AFRICA