Today marks the debut of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, with November 25th being the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and December 10th being Human Rights Day. In honor of today, the 15 that follow, and so on into the future, I made a short film that celebrate's the work of Tostan's partner communities to protect human rights for everyone in their communities, and specifically for women and girls. You can find another post I wrote about the breadth of Tostan's work in West Africa here. Or read our 2013 Annual Report (which I also designed with Alisa Hamilton).
Some of the footage seen in this film was shot in the Kaolack and Kolda regions of Senegal. While in Kolda I was able to meet with community members and interview doctors and other health workers regarding long-term physical and emotional effects of obstetric fistula. I'm hoping that footage will be applied to another future project. Other footage comes from events before my time, where Tostan partner communities publicly pledge to abandon harmful practices in their communities.
Making this video was quite the learning experience. My background is in fruit fly biology, and vaccine development and public health education in Mali in 2008. Recently I've been pursuing a MFA in animation in order to use film and art as tools for targeted public health education interventions. There is quite a bit of research emerging as to the effectiveness of using film and other visual or performance arts to encourage behavior change in regards to overcoming things as diverse as poor agricultural yield in India to abandoning harmful social practices.
I recently resubmitted an application to Fulbright for funding to pursue this project. Last year when I applied, about 30 people submitted applications for Senegal specifically and only 2 awards were given out. So even in the best case scenario, my chances are limited. My advantage this year is that my project is significantly more focused and I'm working with the organization in the host country to which I'm applying.
I can confidently estimate that a budget of about $12,000-$15,000 could cover a year of dedicated work that would produce a short film intended specifically for local communities, and one that has tremendous potential to aid Tostan's (and Orchid Project, the Government of Senegal's, Girl's Not Brides and a number of other local individuals' and organization's) ongoing efforts to achieve total abandonment of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage. That budget could cover housing, food, travel, translators and other miscellaneous costs. If anyone is interested in learning more about my proposal or supporting my proposal, please leave a comment or send an email to wassoulou (at) gmail (dot) com.
Anyways, although I've been studying film, actually making one is a whole different beast...and the animation in this one is pretty limited. I'm pleased with all the flying text in the beginning, as overdone as it may be (thanks to a little self-education via endless AfterEffects tutorials). Side note: check these guys out. They have an office in Dakar and specifically use digital media like film and radio for health education efforts. They have offered technical support to me if I ever get my project funded...
Tostan originally intended the video to be for International Day of the Girl, in October, but the deadline was a bit too tight. I finished the entire film within 2 weeks but we didn't end up using it then. I was somewhat upset (naturally), or just sleep deprived (also naturally), but in retrospect we then had the opportunity to make edits and smooth some things out, and I think the video is much stronger because of it. One of my favorite parts of the whole process was engineering the sound (as limited as it is). Any guesses on who/where the music is from? If anyone who used to follow this blog when I fairly regularly posted Malian pop cassettes is still following, you might know. But for those of you who didn't, I reposted a post from sometime in 2010 to explain. The opening 6 seconds of the video above samples a bit from Bintou Sidibe (read below and click here to download her amazing tape). The rest of the video samples a short loop from Kokanko Sata.
Thanks for watching. Take some time to explore the hyperlinks in the text. Continue below for a repost from long ago:
In place of an image of the Bintou cassette, which I don't have, is a picture my friend drew in one of my notebooks that I rediscovered the other day. Thanks Nicole!
Voici another wassoulou treasure. My brief searches for extra information on Bintou Sidibe were rather fruitless (although this was cool). Bintou is of the old school of wassoulou women, among Coumba Sidibe, Kagbe Sidibe, and early Oumou Sangare. One brief conversation with friends in Yanfolila at the time, recounted a story where Bintou and Oumou recorded their cassettes at roughly the same period in the late 80's, and essentially raced to get them on the market. As I was told, Oumou's cassette got there first and blew up (perhaps for obvious reasons when you listen to both side by side), while Bintou remained locally famous, but not internationally so.
I don't have a version of Oumou's "Moussolou" cassette up to download, nor have I come across one in the vast internet ocean. And the quality of the youtube links that follow aren't great...nevertheless, listen to the similarities between Bintou's track Nene and Oumou's Diaraby Nene. And then listen to the nearly identical opening to Bintou's Neye Dounanye and Oumou's Djama Kaissoumou. It wouldn't surprise me if they had a lot of overlap between studio musicians, which may have fed-back between the artists' sessions. (That might be a question Ngoniba can answer(?))
Oumou's versions, and her cassette overall, seem tailored to a broader audience, more tightly arranged, quicker and less exploratory. Bintou's on the other hand are long-form and embody the impovisational prowess for which local Mande music is known.
In general I think I prefer the long-form and extended instrumental parts in Bintou's tape. The relaxed tempo of all the music is quite pretty and the small ensemble allows the intricate and rhythmic playing of each instrument to blend very well; nothing is muddled (wait for Vol. 2, full of synthesizers and drum machine). Oumou's production incorporates modern drums (mostly just a hi-hat), a violin instead of soku, and pop arrangements. Diaraby Nene might be one of my all-time favorite wassoulou songs out there (especially the remastered 2003 version where you can clearly hear the kamelen'goni).
*update* here is Bintou's cassette cover