Segments in this Video

African Venice: Life on the Water (02:52)


Water in Africa is the object of devotion, search, and survival. In Benin, the 20,000 inhabitants of Lake Ganvie live in perfect harmony with the water. The town lives on stilts, and floating markets provide goods to the residents.

Struggle for Survival in Benin (04:42)

The people of Lake Ganvie struggle to survive. Malaria takes its toll, while improper sanitation causes other illnesses. The lake is their livelihood, but it is regularly infused with salt water. The children suffer from malnutrition.

Water-Related Illnesses (04:09)

Women in the village on Lake Ganvie suffer from a new disease arising from inactivity and sedentary lifestyles. Some people send their children to a school that is also on the lake.

Fishing and Fish Farming in Africa (03:06)

The men of the Lake Ganvie village do all the fishing and create fish farms for future food supplies. Villagers worship a god from the water that reincarnates in deformed children. Thus, these children are well cared for.

Dogon Culture Disappearing (04:27)

Mythology is an essential element in the lives of the Dogons in Mali. Their amphibious god Nommo was sent to bring them water and seeds. The young Dogons are turning to Islam and Christianity. Is this why things are going bad in Dogon country?

Africans Without Water (02:44)

To the people in Harar, Ethiopia, water is life. Children may walk 20 km to get a bucket of water. Farmers who own the lands near the water do not allow the shepherds to take water. The need to get water precludes all other activities such as school.

Ethiopia and Sahel: Future Without Water (03:16)

Most Africans suffer diseases from the poor quality of water they drink. In the world, 10 million people die each year from polluted water. It is predicted that by 2025, only 1/3 of the world population will have access to the minimal needs for water.

Ethiopian Essentials: Water and Firewood (06:18)

After getting the water for the family's daily needs, Ethiopian young women gather firewood to sell in the city. Women talk about the struggle to raise their families when water is so unavailable. People depend upon sorcerers to bring the rains.

Mud Fishing and Malnutrition (03:00)

In the northern region of Mali, the rainy season is imminent. This is a good time to find fish in the marshy areas. The fish from mud fishing make the people sick, but they risk sickness to fill their stomachs.

Water Goddesses (03:34)

In Abidjan, Ghana, the most powerful goddess is the queen of the water. When explorers arrived, the people adopted the mermaid figurehead of the European ships as their goddess Mami Wata.

Water in Religion and Ritual (04:37)

The village of Abidjan celebrates with dancing, music, and ornamentation in honor of Mami Wata, the mermaid goddess. Mami Wata enters the bodies of some villagers who can return to their natural state only when bathed by sacred waters.

Superstitions About Water and Goddesses (02:18)

A woman prays that Mami Wata, the water goddess, will bring her husband back to her. The pilgrim pays homage to the goddess by giving her fruit and sweet things that she throws in the water.

Supernatural Spirits for Hunters (04:37)

As well as water goddesses, the people of Ghana have the aziza, little people that help hunters. Because of the touchy personalities of the aziza, the people offer them gifts, including animal sacrifices.

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Miraculous Water: The Effects of Scarcity and Abundance in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Mali

Part of the Series : The Call of Africa: The Voice of a Continent
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In sub-Saharan Africa, water is the focus of daily life. This program seeks to understand its centrality by investigating the situation at Lake Ganvie, Benin, an “African Venice” where survival is threatened by environmental changes, improper sanitation, and water-related illnesses; a perceived correlation among Dogon elders between their people’s shift away from the worship of Nommo and an increase in drought conditions; the scarcity of and limited access to water in Ethiopia near the Sahel; annual mud-fishing in Mali, as malnourished locals, desperate to fill their stomachs, gather unhealthy fish in the sure knowledge that eating them will make them ill; and the worship of Mami Wata on the banks of the Volta River and the annual fetatotro, a turning-of-the-year festival. (Portions in other languages with English subtitles, 53 minutes)

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL39450

ISBN: 978-1-60467-353-1

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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