African Performance–Review

I like the front image of Africa that leads to the different links, it was clever and it emphasizes the idea of how cultural forms can differ so widely from region to region. Just on a technical note, the group used the Tumblr engine but didn’t really take advantage of what it had to offer in terms of picture blogging.

The section on West Africa contained many videos which is awesome because, as the author mentions, it is important to see these things live. This section showed a variety of dances but lacked any analysis. What do these dances tell us? What do these videos of dances tell us?

In the Moroccan section, I like the discussion on dance as performance—I think it is an interesting addition to Screening Africa—is a dance performance always a screening of “Africa” or “African culture”? When tourists visit, for example, these dances are one of the few aspects of Africa that they get to see and they are shown as an “authentic” dance, a “true” Africa. I also like how the author positioned themselves to the dances; it’s important to understand our role as American viewers coming to these materials. The revelation that these dances were not meant as entertainment was particularly poignant. I wonder when some of these dances do become “entertainment”, when certain towns are forced to create tourist attractions out of their cultural traditions. I do think this section could be improved by separating it into shorter, separate sections. Apart from that, it was fantastic and brought up a lot of questions. I’m amazed that they found all these videos!

The section on South African Theater was very interesting as well, but it would have been great to see some videos since theater is meant to be performed and viewed. What would our relationship be to a “real-life” enactment of the issues presented in these plays? I understand these videos would be really hard to find, though. I think this section also needed a discussion on what makes theater distinct from other forms of performance and why it’s important to look at it.Focusing on Fugard was a good choice, it gives the reader an in-depth portrayal of what South African theater can look like. The discussion of Fugard’s race in terms of the accessibility and dissemination of his work was given due importance. It makes me think about Dave Egger’s authorship of What is the What. Was Fugard trying to speak for the experiences of others as well?

 The Ghanian short film was great and brought up many questions. I wondered what makes a Ghanian dance a “Ghanian dance”? There have to be drums apparently, sometimes costumes as well. But what if a Ghanian is dancing to Soulja Boy? Where does that fit? Another thing I thought about was that most videos on Youtube don’t have any sort of context, whether they are from Ghana or anywhere else. It’s interesting that these videos are also added as part of this new media repository, showing that Africa is part of this whole technological revolution as some of these videos (though not the majority) were uploaded by Ghanians themselves. It also made me think of Youtube as an all-consuming eye. Youtube always needs more, newer videos; it has to explore every recess of the world. The interview with Kwadwo was interesting, but I think it needed more justification than “he’s Ghanian”.

Overall, I think it was a great project on materials that are hard to find and hard to show. I think the project as a whole could have used a little more analysis (except for the Morocco section), but I enjoyed it a lot. I also think they had a good conversation among the sections about the materials, how to find them and what was at stake in their availability on Youtube or other video networks.

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