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Zinder 1986


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YouTube Zarma culture clips

Zarma - Songhay culture:  Hippopotamus hunt (part 1)

Message: due to a dispute about copyrights, this video (all four parts) is presently not available. Excerpts of the movie can be viewed via two other sites:

Baŋawi, Hippopotamus hunt, part 1
To hunt a baŋa, the baŋawi or bangawi in Zarma, is a dangerous adventure. An animal of several tons may attack the hunters. Therefore the hunters (sorko) built a big boat with thick sides that will resist such an attack. They use wood of the tokey or tokkay tree. Harpoons (harji) are constructed with a float made of a bundle of light stalks. To kill the hippo they use a spear (yaji or yagui)  Preparations take a long time and include a possession ritual lasting for hours and devoted to Harakoy Dikko, deity of the Niger River and mother of the Tooru spirits. These are the nobles of the spirit world, the deities of nature. The possession ritual finishes with the Hauka spirits, the spirits of colonization or spirits of force.

Background information
This video is part 1 of Jean Rouch and Roger Rosfelder film titled "Bataille sur le Grand Fleuve" (literally Battle on the Big River) made in 1952. The other parts can be viewed as well. The film was shot on a mission of the French Institute of Black Africa (L' Institute Français d'Afrique Noire) near Ayorou in 1950-1951. The length of the original film is 33 minutes, the video shows the first eight and a half minute.

Bataille sur le Grand Fleuve (part 1 to 4)

Baŋawi, part 1

Baŋawi, part 2

Baŋawi, part 3

Baŋawi, part 4

About the film
The Sorko fishermen[a] hunt hippopotamuses on the Niger river with harpoons. Before their departure, a ceremony is held to question the spirit of the river as to the success of the hunt, which results in the capture of two hippopotamuses : a woman possessed by the spirit of the river dances and the fishermen spray magic water on her to stoke up their own courage. One female hippopotamus is killed and a young one captured alive. But an old male, solitary and fierce, despite his numerous harpoon wounds, succeeds in escaping after damaging the hunters’ great dug-out canoe. [source: France Diplomatie].

More information
Stoller, Paul (1997) Fusion of the worlds. An ethnography of possession among the Songhay of Niger.
      University of Chicago Press, 268 pages.
[2] Rouch, Jean (2003) Ciné-ethnography;
edited and translated by Steven Feld.









Last updated: 06 maart 2012