Women and Intangible Cultural Heritage: The experience of the “creative” documentary film in sub-Sahara Africa by Bertrand Cabedoche, professor of Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication and in charge of the chair of Unesco Communication internationale de l’Université Stendhal-Grenoble.
Bertrand Cabedoche introduces the study with a quote by Pierre Perrault followed by a provocative observation of the film, Une fenêtre ouverte (An open window) by Senegalese director Khady Sylla, both of which set the tone for his research on the documentary filmmaking of women as intangible cultural heritage. Below is an elaboration of the English abstract of the French text. Read the entire text in French| Lire le texte dans son intégralité
“We began to see ourselves the day that we stopped seeing ourselves through the eye of our neighbour.” (Pierre Perrault. ONF. Canada)
Aminta Ngom is mad. Her pain cries out on screen. Director Khady Sylla films this malaise, sometimes behind the camera, sometimes on the screen. In making this film, atypical in its treatment of madness as a theme (a very sensitive topic as it crosses the line of a reality that is not revealed publicly), Khady Sylla conducts her own therapy, pushing the limits of the unspeakable. “I see what others cannot see, explaining it to those who have not experienced this suffering that plagues the world.” Beyond this very encouraging artistic critique, it is symbolic of an African cinema renewal. Moreover, the above reinforces Africadocs’ investment in the initiative. The Africadocs Association has worked to build new relationships within the filmmaking sector and to renew terms with all stakeholders, especially with women. From this special experiment, the anthropological gaze on the African woman emerges transformed, directed by the African woman herself, as subject, filmmaker and producer of her own image.
The genre and format of the documentary (52 minutes on the screen) across all productions, seem particularly well suited to the continent, in terms of film projects in general. The importance of the scriptwriting workshops, which have expanded to a dozen African countries since 2003 (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Gabon, Mauritania, Congo, Niger, Cameroon, Cape Verde ...) is indicative of the crop of projects that has emerged from them attesting to the need to document, to influence the way Africa is represented to the world, to confront social contradictions, and even to fantasise, especially when the issues deal with the reality of African women’s lives. For it is on this experience that both male and female documentarist focus in search of a new aesthetic, as well as a renewed écriture regarding social issues, past and present, but that are also in constant evolution.
Within this context, the university institution is fully involved right from the start of the training of future African documentarists, at the same time encouraging an academic distance, in order to strive towards building an intangible heritage as a common property of Humanity. Above all, it reveals a new understanding of intangible heritage as is encouraged by the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, signed by UNESCO on 17 October 2003, designating “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.” (art. 2.1)
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