Monday, October 02, 2017

Massaiernes menn og kvinner / Maasai Men and Women

[Uomini e donne Masai] (?, ca 1920), prod: ?. DCP (from 35 mm), 10’05”, tinted; titles: NOR.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Silent African in Norway
    Music: Günter Buchwald, Frank Bockius.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 2 Oct 2017.

Tina Anckarman (GCM 2017): "These three ethnographic shorts were produced around 1920-21 and depict three tribes in East Africa: the Nilotic Kavirondo (Luo), the Kikuyu of Mount Kenya, and the Maasai of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Traditions and manners are described in words and astonishing images, such as dances of the Kikuyu and Maasai; the Kavirondos’ skill in making and using fishing tools; and Maasai women’s knowledge of house-building. The members of the communities are beautifully portrayed, from Kikuyu dressed in customary clothes and jewelry for the harvest feast, Maasai displaying their decorated weapons, and Kavirondo women on the shore of Homa Bay on Lake Victoria, smoking while awaiting the catch, wearing their traditional “tail” made of banana fibres."

"The provenance is known for two of the films, Massaiernes menn og kvinner and Kavirondonegrene paa fiske, but it’s assumed that the third one also derives from the same collector. Per Kviberg (1881-1960) was a schoolteacher, local politician, and a strong, early voice for the use of film for educational purposes. Kviberg and Kommunernes Filmscentral cooperated with like-minded instructors at home as well as in other Scandinavian countries, looking to Germany for films they could distribute and for useful ideas on how to organize screenings in educational institutions. There are documents verifying that Kviberg brought footage, adequate for teaching, back to Oslo (then called Kristiania) following a journey to Berlin in 1921. Fragments from Kavirondonegrene paa fiske and Kikujunegrene danser are also in the catalogue of the Kungliga biblioteket (Royal Library), Stockholm."

"The production company for the titles is not identified, nor is the country of origin. The Norwegian intertitles in all of them are similar: the frame on the title cards and the fonts are close to identical, as are the tinted colors. The original footage is partly fragmented due to decomposing nitrate. The three reels were incorporated in the collection of the Norsk Filminstitutt and moved to the nitrate vaults of the Nasjonalbiblioteket (National Library) in 1994/2002.
" Tina Anckarman

AA: An account of Maasai life on East-African steppes. Previously, the Maasai were courageous warriors, now they are peaceful. Hamites have blended with the Maasai.

Polygamy is common. Home is the responsibility of women. Women build huts from rice and cowdung.

The Maasai women's dance is not lively; it is monotonous swinging. Children learn to dance before they walk. Men's solo dance is more energetic. They are even dancing in couples.

Spiral iron rings are the most valuable jewels.

Frank Bockius's mighty drums dominated the introduction of the live music score.

There are many beautiful images in this documentary, and the visual quality is mostly good, although there are also damage marks.

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