Videos on the technologies and
social life of the peoples of the Mandara Mountains of North Cameroon and
N. David and Y. Le Bléis. Dokwaza: last of the African iron masters.
(50 mins.) University of Calgary: Dept of Communications Media.
French version: Dokwaza: le dernier maître de fer africain. Both
the English and French versions were sponsored by the United Steel Workers
of America (Canadian National Office).
Iron metallurgy began to transform the societies of sub-Saharan Africa
over 2,500 years ago, but now locally smelted bloomery iron has been everywhere
replaced by industrially produced stock. Traditional smelting is a complex
process combining science and ritual that was disappearing just as it became
feasible to capture it on visual media. This video therefore provides a
rare record of a technology whose time has passed, and the reenactment
of a smelt by iron workers of the Mafa ethnic group shows a furnace type
and a process that are unique to a part of the northern Cameroon and Nigerian
border area. Presented in three sequences, Dokwaza is first introduced
as we follow the building of the furnace and bellows. Then charcoal and
bellows skins are prepared. and the iron master demonstrates how ore is
gathered and cleaned. The second sequence follows the long day of the smelt,
as the furnace is charged with ore and charcoal, sacrifice made, and, after
frenzied working of the bellows accompanied by music and song, a bloom
mass is removed from the shaft. The third sequence takes place in the forge
and shows the fining of the metal produced and its forging into a traditional
of the spirits: pots and people in North Cameroon. (50 mins.) Calgary:
Department of Communications Media, University of Calgary.
French version: Demeures des esprits: pots et personnes dans le Nord du
Vessels explores the role of pottery in the daily social and religious
life of North Cameroonian peoples. Pots are people and people are pots
to the inhabitants of the Mandara highlands of North Cameroon. The videotape
documents unusual techniques of manufacture of utilitarian and figurated
sacred pottery among the Mafa, Sirak, and Hide, and shows how pots are
assimilated to people by their decoration and in their capacity to contain
spirits, including those of God and the ancestors. Pots are shown being
used in economic, social, and ritual contexts, in the latter as tools for
communication with the spirit world. Opening and closing sequences of a
festival that involves the release, wild run, and recapture of bulls make
the point that the bulls symbolize the spirits and that the ceremony is
the central religious rite precisely because it offers a general formula
for human action.
1995 Black Hephaistos:
exploring culture and science in African iron working. (48 mins.) Calgary:
University of Calgary, Department of Communications Media.
The video presents traditional African iron-smelting technology. Uniting
ritual, magical, and technical aspects, this technology is metaphorically
linked to procreation. The viewer then participates in the metallurgical
laboratory work, including optical and electron microscopy that reveals
the workings of that technology. Video footage, filmed in 1989 and 1993
in the Mandara highlands of Cameroon and Nigeria, records the process of
smelting iron by Ajokfa, a Plata Kapa iron master, and fining and forging
by Hundu, a Sukur smith. The scene shifts back and forth between Africa
and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University
of Arizona, where Dr. David Killick demonstrates how scientific understanding
of these processes is gained through metallurgical analyses of their products
A group of
male youths of Sukur in the Mandara mountains of Nigeria are initiated
into manhood. The ceremony takes place every two years and comprises the
classic van Gennep phases of separation, isolation and reintegration into
society. In the first, while others engage in the hardest labor of the
agricultural season, the young men, covered in red ochre, wander, play
flutes and compete with each other. In the second, after a fight that expresses
long standing political tensions, and after being blessed in the presence
of the chief, they spend some days on a rocky hill under their own governance.
In the third, they don traditional costume and are introduced to important
spirits before being reintegrated into society as men during a communal
dance. In contrast to inheritance, which is patrilineal, in this ceremony
it is the links with mothers and maternal kin that are symbolically emphasized.
1999 Regenerating Sukur: male initiation in the Mandara Mountains. (22
mins.) Calgary: University of Calgary, Advanced Media for learning.
All these videos are available for sale from the Department
of Communications Media, University of Calgary, Calgary AB, Canada
T2N 1N4. Barbara Murray [Tel. (403) 220-3709; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]
is the person to contact.