Questions of source in African cinema: the heritage of the griot in Dani Kouyat's films

Author: Smith, Kate Bolgar

Source: Journal of African Media Studies, Volume 2, Number 1, 1 April 2010 , pp. 25-38(14)

Publisher: Intellect

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This article offers a review of the long-accepted genre of return to the source within African cinema through an analysis of the work of the celebrated Burkinab director and griot, Dani Kouyat. Drawing on sociological and anthropological knowledge of the Mande region, and particularly the musical traditions of the griot, the author suggests that the source material of such films needs to be reassessed. While return to the source films are often thought to present Africa's pre-colonial past, the author argues that a focus on pre-colonial Africa does not preclude a focus on contemporary cultures. A re-view of the return to the source films from a local perspective reveals a binding factor between the past and the present: the heritage of the griot. An analysis of two of Kouyat's films demonstrates the ability of return to the source films to be culturally syncretic and inspired by contemporary events as the director interlaces the past and the present, the local and the global. Questioning the tendencies to ghettoize films from Africa, the author proposes an outlook for African screen media scholarship that recognizes a film's specific cultural heritage and integrates it into the global film tradition.

Keywords: African film; Dani Kouyat; Keta! L'hritage du griot; Sia, le rve du python; griot; return to the source

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: London.

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) is an interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for debate on the historical and contemporary aspects of media and communication in Africa. 
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