27 nov 2011


Chinese Huaer festivals, ETHNIKKA blog for human cultural knowledge
In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and throughout north-central China, people of nine different ethnic groups share a music tradition known as Hua’er. The music is drawn from an extensive traditional repertoire named after ethnicities, towns or flowers (‘Tu People’s ling’, ‘White Peony ling’), and lyrics are improvised in keeping with certain rules – for example, verses have three, four, five or six lines, each made up of seven syllables. Songs may tell of young love, the hard work and weariness of the farming life, the foibles of men and women or the joy of singing. The songs are also a vivid oral record of recent social developments in China as singers comment on the changes they observe around them. Hua’er singers may have little schooling, but the most successful and widely respected singers today have become household names, performing widely and even creating their own institutes to pass on their art to apprentices. Whether it is being sung spontaneously by rural people working in the field or travelling or performed more formally at one of more than a hundred traditional Hua’er festivals held annually in these provinces, Hua’er is an important vehicle for expressing personal feelings in a social setting and cultural exchange across ethnicities, as well as a popular rural entertainment.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Linxia prefecture

19 nov 2011

Komal Gandhar

Komal Gandhar film review, Ethnikka blog for cultural knowledge
Title: Komal Gandhar (A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale)
Year: 1961
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Writer: Rabindranath Tagore, Ritwik Ghatak
Running time: 134 minutes  
Country: India
Plot summary:
Komal Gandhar (English title: A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale; literally: E-flat) is a 1961 Bengali film written and directed by noted film maker Ritwik Ghatak. It was part of the trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Komal Gandhar, and Subarnarekha (1962), all dealing with the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 and the refugees coping with it, though this was the most optimistic film of his oeuvre. The film explores three themes juxtaposed in the narrative, the dilemma of Anusuya, the lead character, divided leadership of IPTA and the fallout of the partition of India.
The title was taken from the line of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore that meant a sur or note, E-flat. As in other films by Ghatak, music plays a pivotal role in the movie.
Through the microcosmic perspectivising of a group of devoted and uncompromising IPTA workers, Ghatak with his signature style touches on varied issues of partition, idealism, corruption, the interdependence of art and life, the scope of art, and class-struggle. Unlike his other films, this one runs along an upbeat mood with the lead pair of lovers (Bhrigu and Anusuya) being reunited.

© Text and image: Wikipedia and IMDB

13 nov 2011

Grand song of the Dong

Grand song of the Dong people, ETHNIKKA blog for Human Cultural Knowledge
A popular saying among the Dong people in Guizhou Province in southern China has it that ‘rice nourishes the body and songs nourish the soul’. Their tradition of passing on culture and knowledge in music is exemplified in the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, multi-part singing performed without instrumental accompaniment or a leader. The repertoire includes a range of genres such as ballads, children’s songs, songs of greeting and imitative songs that test performers’ virtuosity at mimicking the sounds of animals. Taught by masters to choirs of disciples, Grand Songs are performed formally in the drum-tower, the landmark venue for rituals, entertainment and meetings in a Dong village, or more spontaneously in homes or public places. They constitute a Dong encyclopaedia, narrating the people’s history, extolling their belief in the unity of humans and nature, preserving scientific knowledge, expressing feelings of romantic love, and promoting moral values such as respect for one’s elders and neighbours. Grand Song is performed widely today, with each village boasting various choirs divided by age and sometimes gender. In addition to disseminating their lifestyle and wisdom, it remains a crucial symbol of Dong ethnic identity and cultural heritage.

© Text: UNESCO, Image: China Ministry of Culture

9 nov 2011

Reo Franklin Fortune

Reo Franklin Fortune (1903 - 1979) 
Reo Fortune was a New Zealand social anthropologist. 
Originally trained as a psychologist, a Cambridge graduate (1928–1935), Fortune was a lecturer in social anthropology at the Cambridge University, and a specialist in Melanesian language and culture.
He was married to Margaret Mead, with whom he undertook field studies in New Guinea, from 1928 to 1935.
He is also known for his contribution to mathematics with his study of Fortunate numbers in number theory.

His works
As an anthropologist, his Sorcerers of Dobu remains the locus classicus of eastern Papuan anthropology.
Fortune was a student of Malinowski, the famous Trobriand ethnographer. He spent five months with the "fourty odd souls" that inhabited Tewara Island (north of Fergusson Island), in the hamlet Kubwagai, one month with the people of Basima on Fergusson, and some months later he concluded his field work with a one month stay on Dobu Island itself. During his stay he aquired a good knowledge of the language "by contagion", as he claims.
His classic book Sorcerers of Dobu contributed strongly to Massim ethnography and, according to Malinowski in his preface of the book, demonstrated the value of participant observation as a method of field work: "The present book may be regarded by the Functional Method as one of its triumphs in the field". In fact, Sorcerers of Dobu is a well written account of the social organisation of Tewara Islanders in the late 1920s. It covers many topics that are related to social life with a strong focus on economies (gardening, mortuary exchanges, kula exchange) and interpersonal relationships (marriage, conflicts within and between social groups, structural animosities and the effect of matrilineality).
The highlight of his ethnography however is Fortune's information on male sorcery, called by him "the black art". He collected an extraordinary amount of spells and techniques although this knowledge is regarded as amongst a person's most precious possessions. Perhaps partly due to his quite grizzly main topic his impression of "The Dobuan" was very negative. According to his former wife, Margaret Mead, he stated later on that he did not like them at all. His experience was that it was "an individualistic and quarrelsome society".
Fortune's work can still be seen as a historically interesting account of the Dobu language area.

© Text and photo: Wikipedia and New Zealand Library

5 nov 2011

Mead Film Festival 2011

Name: 35th Margaret Mead Film Festival
Dates: 10th to 13th November 2011
Entrance fee: Ticket fees per film
Place: Entrance for screenings is on 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, New York
The Mead showcases the best in non-narrative filmmaking, encompassing a broad spectrum of work including international documentaries, experimental films, animation, hybrid works, and more.
The Festival presents documentaries that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the peoples and cultures that populate our planet.
The Margaret Mead Film Festival is the longest-running, premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States, encompassing a broad spectrum of work, from indigenous community media to experimental nonfiction. The Festival is distinguished by its outstanding selection of titles, which tackle diverse and challenging subjects, representing a range of issues and perspectives, and by the forums for discussion with filmmakers and speakers.

Opening Night with Grande Hotel (directed by Lotte Stoops)
The Grande Hotel in the East African seaside town of Beira, Mozambique, was once the most opulent resort on the continent. Now, it is home to an estimated 3,000 squatters. Living in this shell of former luxury, those on the margins of society create a self-enclosed community as the place they call home crumbles around them. As one voice in the film says, the history of the hotel is the history of the country itself.

About the Mead Film Festival:

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