06 November 2009

Great Ideas: Fridays in an African Classroom


I read other blogs to get ideas. One of my favorite Science Fiction blogs, Topless Robot, likes to post really bad fanfic on Fridays (be wary, this stuff will make you really worry about the future of humanity). Now, I'm not going to do that here. However, the idea of regularly posting on the same theme one day a week I thought was a great idea. Since I am an anthropologist who works in Africa I thought perhaps maybe posts about Africa, Africans, and African culture - materials that could be used in the classroom - might be a good theme for Friday blog posts. And as a secondary factor, it helps me save material in one spot that I might use in the future to teach about Africa, Africans, and African culture (which is not some monolithic country BTW, there are some people that think this sadly).

Today I start with one of my favorite videos - Binta y la Gran Idea (Binta and the Great Idea). I used it spring term 2009 in my Introductory Anthropology class as it speaks to rural life in contemporary Senegal. Themes of gender roles, education, modernization, sustainability, love, kin, and what it means to be human are explored through the eyes of a little girl named Binta. The great idea, referred to in the title, comes from her father.

The 31 minute long movie is dubbed, as the actors speak French and Diola. Spanish director Javier Fesser shot this movie in cooperation with UNICEF and the Senegalese in 2004. The film is boxed with 12 other short films and 100% of the profits from the sales go to UNICEF in perpetuity. I have linked to the video and trailer below - both with English and Spanish subtitles. More information about the film and the numerous awards it has won are on the Short Film Central database.

Two stories interweave in Binta's narrative. The first story is that of her cousin Soda. Soda desperately wants to attend school, but her father believes girls don't need an education. Binta and her classmates produce a play for the entire community that shows the benefits of education for both boys and girls. I don't want to give away what happens, but this story does end happily.

The second story follows Binta's father, a fisherman. The movie opens with him talking to a friend about European fishing and efficiency. Binta's father is alarmed at the loss of community and their unsustainable resource use practices. He develops an idea that takes him from the local district government all the way to the governor's office. Again, I don't want to give away the ending, however, it is a surprising twist on the normal cultural exchange between industrialized and non-industrialized cultures. Let's just say that Binta's father proposes a wonderful way to school children from industrialized countries so that they can grow up to be good people. :) My intro anthropology students loved it.

Here is a link to the wiki on Binta y la Gran Idea if you want to know the ending.

English Subtitles:


Spanish Subtitles:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Trailer (Spanish subtitles only):

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