30 January 2013

Television in Mali

When "we" are house-bound with no internet connection anywhere "we" tend to turn to television for company, news, maybe some education and certainly entertainment. When our trip to Segou became a sojourn in Bamako we tended to be fixated on the news about the burgeoning crisis which we watched on France24 - the France-based French-language network that became my French CNN because I couldn't get the real CNN on my TV. ORTM - Mali's national television and radio network produced most of its programming in Bamanankan (Bambara), Kasonga (from the western Kayes region), and other Malian languages which I just couldn't identify. Two other networks, CANAL and TM2, were consistently on air. CANAL was an entertainment channel (movies, music videos, infotainement...). TM2 seemed to be feature a range of local and international serials, on travel, tourism, sit-coms, dramas and some news, but all Malian for African. After a couple of nights I found myself in a kind of routine.

Once the prime time news hour was over I usually left France24 to watch ORTM because its programs focused entirely on Malian culture - from all of its regions and all of its peoples - popular contemporary and traditional, historical. I couldn't understand 90% of the words, but, ladies and gentlemen, television has never been so educational nor so compelling. Maybe it's because I was stuck and suddenly gifted with hours with which to take the guided tours the tiny TV was giving me on a nightly basis. And, maybe it was because after being to Mali on three occasions for a whopping total of 9 weeks the one thing I started to figure out is how little I knew, and how well I was beginning to I understood how very little I knew.

I only watched CANAL if something amazing happened like a Three Stooges movie dubbed in Bambara or French (really). Since it tended toward the pop culture I only watched TM2 when it featured traditional or historical programs or musicians I was curious about. But it was on TM2 that I saw a production of the Saga of Sunjata Keita. A griot/djele in a dark studio under a single spotlight and told the story of Mali's legedary emperor. Interspersed with his telling was footage of the entire epic performed in a village by a large troupe of actor/dancers in full costume. It was the entire story and a wonderful way to experience it - at ground level, with the performers, costumes, drumming, singing depicting drama, battles, magic, births, deaths, everything - really an epic. I thought this would be a great film to have in Virginia to show to students of all ages.

Today I discovered a link to a BricoFilms, brico-films.com, a production company that has created a series called Les Rois de Segou, a fictionalized account of the history of the kings of Segou. Spectacular series, in my opinion and a reaffirmation that people telling their own stories is very important. And for us tourists, we get to see just how all those baubles and handicrafts we buy as gifts and souvenirs actually functioned in context. Oh! The Bogolon! The Amber beads! The metal work and pottery. The Hairstyles and textiles. Woof. Some of these programs are probably making their way to YouTube, but when we can find them we will let you know.


24 January 2013

Segou Peep This Premiers in Segou!

Mayor Ousmane Simaga interviews the Segou Peep This filmakers of
"My Country My Cloth / Ne Ka Jamana, Ne Ka Fini" just after the world premiere
which was held in in early January at Segou's city hall. The project was coordinated
by Dr. Shawn Utsey, professor of psychology and chair of the department of
African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Click on the "Slideshows..." tab above to see more!