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Credits: In Dogon Country: Marcel Griaule's Journeys through Africa (00:10)


Credits: In Dogon Country: Marcel Griaule's Journeys through Africa

Introduction (01:23)

Griaule's grandson is in the Dogon region in Mali; his grandfather traveled here in 1931, in the first anthropological exploration of Africa. He revolutionized anthropology by becoming the first field worker.

Museum (01:57)

We visit the museum Griaule used as his base, which contains thousands of African artifacts. Griaule conceived a Dakar-to-Djibouti expedition, crossing Africa East to West, aimed at introducing African culture to Europe.

Raising Funds from French Public (03:27)

Intellectuals supported Griaule's project and raised money from a French public fascinated by Africa, enlisting black boxing champion Al Brown. They enlisted business support, pioneering the idea of sponsorship.

Expedition (01:28)

Griaule's expedition set off in 1931. A team of seven traveled two arduous years; photographs show a bridge they built to cross a river.

Observing Dogon Ceremonies (02:41)

A Dogon funeral woke Griaule at night. He saw Dogon ceremonies as expressions of a complex social system and way of thinking.

Dogon's Recollections of Griaule (02:52)

Griaule's grandson visits the family of a man who knew his grandfather; a 90-year-old woman remembers Griaule. The grandson also describes Griaule's character.

Incarnation of Grandfather (02:32)

The Dogon make use of the cliffs. Learning of Griaule's grandson's birth, they believed he was Griaule reincarnated; he has come to pay homage. In a Dogon village, houses are laid out in the shape of a human body.

Griaule's Technique (01:37)

Griaule's technique was ahead of its time, using detailed notes, drawings and photographs. He was the first anthropologist to use film.

Dogon Culture (01:39)

Special buildings are considered repositories of wisdom and are centers of the village. The Dogon are polygamous. The hunter has supernatural powers and embeds animal skulls in his house to take on the animals' power.

Dogon Pottery and Blacksmiths (02:25)

A pot represents the universe; kneading imitates God's creation; footage shows the same process today and in Griaule's time. The blacksmith is the chief; he restores cosmic harmony but, like Promethius, he stole the sun's fire for man's benefit.

Heading to Market (02:31)

Many Dogon live on the plains or plateau, but the cliffs are the heart of the Dogon people. People make their way to the plateau on market day, a dangerous climb for people from the plains.

Symbolic Rituals at Market (01:04)

A young woman making doughnuts signals her availability to men by kneading to the count of three; Griaule's black-and-white footage shows the same custom.

Masks and Child's Play (02:48)

Griaule's study of Dogon children's activities formed the basis of one of his books; another was on Dogon masks. Blacksmiths create the masks; one explains how they are worn.

Fight Rituals (02:04)

Rituals surrounding a fight between two men involve the entire village and have changed little since Griaule. A sandstorm and torrential downpour suddenly hit.

Mask Ceremony (03:15)

We watch a mask ceremony to starts the mourning period for an old man who died; Griaule witnessed a similar ceremony. The ceremony is symbolic of the world, performed to the rhythm of the universe.

Griaule's Mask Ceremony Footage (01:13)

We watch a film Griaule took of a mask ceremony; his commentary discusses tribes-people taking on personas. He explains the symbolism.

Gaining Trust, Receiving Revelation (01:50)

Griaule became part of Dogon life. He underwent initiation rights. 15 years after his first visit, elders allowed him to receive a revelation explaining their concept of the universe.

Dogon Conception of Universe (02:53)

For the Dogon, the universe is a man; the sunlight his food, the night his excrement. A god created two sets of twins, one of which rebelled and was turned into a fox. Birth of twins is therefore worthy of special celebration.

Divination Ritual (01:31)

Soothsayers leave food for a fox, who carries divine knowledge in his paws despite his voice being taken away; they debate the interpretation of his paw marks.

Symbolism in Daily Life (01:55)

Weavers stop working when the sun sets and sing while they weave, for symbolic reasons. The Dogon believe matter has a vibration, internal but also corresponding to the vibration of the universe.

Sigi Celebration (01:22)

The most important Dogon event is the celebration of the Sigi, held every sixty years. Griaule did not see this ceremony but described its preparations; others filmed it.

Building a Dam (01:35)

After the War, Griaule took aerial photographs and drew a relief map to enable construction of a dam; he lobbied the French government to secure its construction.

Clearing Land (01:41)

Using the dam Griaule built, the Dogon have become West Africa's leading onion producers. They clear land before rain sets in.

Preparing for Death (02:08)

In 1954, Griaule was in a settlement taking notes when a tornado hit. Lightning struck the settlement. He got his files in order and otherwise prepared for death, writing that he wanted to be buried above the dam.

Griaule's Death and Funeral (02:52)

In 1956, Griaule died in Paris. The Dogon honored him in a funeral ceremony reserved for heroes and warriors.

Closing Thoughts (01:12)

Griaule's thoughts on the occasion of his initiation master's death are quoted; he expressed the hope that the man left behind writings so others could pick up the threads of his revelations.

Credits: In Dogon Country: Marcel Griaule's Journeys through Africa (00:31)

Credits: In Dogon Country: Marcel Griaule's Journeys through Africa

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In Dogon Country: Marcel Griaule's Journeys through Africa

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During the 1920s it became fashionable for European artists and intellectuals to profess an interest in Africa. But a young French anthropologist named Marcel Griaule wanted to do more than follow fashion. Between 1928 and 1933, he mounted two major expeditions—one to Ethiopia and another which crossed the continent from Dakar to Djibouti. The latter adventure lasted two years and offered new ways for Westerners to learn and think about Africa. As this film illustrates, it was during Griaule’s second expedition that he befriended the Dogon people of West Africa. Although some of his conclusions about Dogon culture have met with controversy, Griaule’s work created a new paradigm of anthropological field work and made immense contributions to modern ethnology. Presented by Griaule’s grandson, the film contains a wealth of both archival and present-day materials. (55 minutes)

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL48991

ISBN: 978-1-62290-223-1

Copyright date: ©1997

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“An informative documentary about an important anthropologist.”  Anthropology Review Database

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.