Living Memory - Six Sketches of Mali Today

  • Mémoire vivante - Six Sketches du Mali d'aujourd'hui
Genre : Historical
Type : Documentary
Original title :
Principal country concerned : Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 2003
Format : Mid-length
Running time : 53 (in minutes)

Directed by Susan Vogel
Produced by Susan Vogel, Samuel Sidibé, Eric Engles & the Musée National du Mali

LIVING MEMORY is a film about Mali's ancient culture, and this
culture's position in society today. Filmed with a Malian crew, cut to
the beat of Malian music, the film offers an alluring mosaic of perspectives. Home of the ancient empires, this landlocked desert nation is one of the ten poorest countries yet, paradoxically, a rich culture flourishes, and Malian artists are prominent in contemporary Africa. Samuel Sidibé (Director of the Musée National du Mali), the brilliant Malian cinematographer Racine Keita and Susan Vogel (founder of the Museum for African Art, New York) provide unparalleled access and an insider's vision. The film was made with a commitment to authenticity; so actual events are explained by the unmediated voices of first hand participants.

The film is constructed in six sketches:

Ritual Arts - At the Chiwara ritual dance in Dyere, where it is performed for farming success, the pulsing energy of the dance contrasts with the small audience and an elegiac statement by the old chief who fears Chiwara will end with his generation.

Culture on Display - Replicas of iconic Malian objects have multiplied in public space as emblems of national pride, and as merchandise for tourists. Meanwhile, the authentic originals stream from their village homes into museums and art collections around the world.

Style - Style is central to Malian culture, and weddings are splendid displays of elegant clothing, henna body decoration, and elaborate gold work. In Timbuktu we meet an outspoken bride preparing for the wedding by visiting woodworkers, goldsmiths, weavers and others.

Architecture - In Djenné a thousand men turn out to restore the plaster on the great mosque in a few hours, one of the most spectacular but seldom witnessed events in Mali.

Contemporary Artists - Artists in a dialogue with their heritage. Yaya Coulibaly carves wooden puppets; Alioune Ba photographs timeless activities at the river, a departure from the traditional portraits of Malik Sidibé; and Abdoulaye Konaté creates an assemblage alluding to magical amulets.

Music - From a Taureg wedding in the north to Mande hunters in the south, and closing with Salif Keïta and his band going full steam at his club in Bamako. Alternately sensual, ironic, beautiful and humorous, the film exposes tensions in a culture assailed by modernization, Islam and global tourism, yet confident that it will maintain its own distinctive character.

"Engages the full sweep of Mali's contemporary artistic production with an exceptional visual and conceptual clarity. The film reveals the power and vitality of those arts which have ancient roots in Malian history, and those forms drawn from the global lexicon, that Malians creatively transform, and proudly claim as their own. A must see film for... students of African art and culture."-Mary Jo Arnoldi, Curator, African Art and Culture, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution


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  • Arterial network
  • Media, Sports and Entertainment Group (MSE)
  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
  • Zimbabwe : Culture Fund Of Zimbabwe Trust
  • RDC : Groupe TACCEMS
  • Rwanda : Positive Production
  • Togo : Kadam Kadam
  • Niger : ONG Culture Art Humanité
  • Collectif 2004 Images
  • Africultures Burkina-Faso
  • Bénincultures / Editions Plurielles
  • Africiné
  • Afrilivres

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