GLOBAL VISION Africa Vol. 1 Landscapes & Legends DVD
“Global Vision” opens a window to the world of a digital trip in fascinating settings of our planet, in times where boarders disappear and the pleasure of travelling grows. Beautiful pictures from exotic regions around the globe, atmospheric underlined with warm sounds of Lounge, World Ambient and Electronic-Chill-Out invite to an exciting relaxing expedition.
From the blazing “hell” of the Niger on the western edge of the Sahara through the opalescent bazaar passages in the Afro-Arabic metropolis of Khartoum to the exotic island of Zanzibar off the African east coast – and further on, goes this exciting trip around the black continent. It’s about spirits and nomads of the winds, about Dervishes and legendary queens …
1. Geerewol – The Dance of the Bororo
“We are shepherds and we are dancers and our hearts dance far out in the desert.”
On the outskirts of the endless dunes of the Sahara in the Niger, every year all the tribes of the desert meet in Tahoua, to celebrate the “Geerewol”, a feast as bizarre and old, as the kings of the desert themselves, make-believe attacks, wild warrior cries, camel racing: manhood rituals are the starts for the festivities. Handsomeness is very important to the desert nomads, especially to the men of the Woodabe tribe, because “the Birds of Wildness” are said to have the most handsome men among them. They tend to show-off their some times bizarre beauty in public. Each showing his best piece be it a racing camel, a noble sword or the turban made of the best silk. All of this has only one goal: to attract women. It is always the charming womanliness, that chooses her men and is also allowed to have lovers, if she is not satisfied with her partner and father of her children.
The highlight of each Geerewol festival is the Yaake dance. During this dance, the Woodabe tribe believes, “Boodal” appears, the spirit of beauty. No woman could be able to resist the graceful dancing male body. The men give all they can and let their charm convince. The more grimaces a man makes, the thinner his body is, graceful his face is, the more chances does he have. It is a contest. Goal is to find the most beautiful “Bird of Wildness”. The faces painted in reddish ochre, heads crowned with ostrich feathers and Kauri shells, each dancer conjures his personal “Maagani”, his recipe to challenge the desire of women. Despite the false shyness, the women know exactly how to signalise who they have in favour. Mostly only a mild smile is needed to get the men going. Seven days and seven nights the “Harmattan”, the hot desert wind, blows more and more men to the feast. During all this time, the “Ginnies”, the bad spirits of the desert, are banned. Only after these days, will the “Birds of Wildness” pick up their flight and leave nothing behind, besides their fleeting footprints in the sand.
2. Zayn za’ll barr – The Sound of Paradise
“Zayn za’ll barr” – “Beautiful is this Country!“ is what sailors shouted out, when they first discovered the island of Zanzibar off the African east coast. And they were right! During the evening Darajani – the market in Stone Town, the historic part of Zanzibar city turns into a scene of “Arabian Nights”. 500 years ago, the island was a Portuguese colony and emporium for spices between the trade route of India and Far East.
In the far north of Zanzibar, lies Nungwi – the largest fisher village on the island. This beautiful place is considered the centre of boat construction. In the same manner as 200 years ago, many small shipyards build the so-called “Ngalawa” from Mangotrees, a hand made boat similar to the catamarans and the legendary Dhaus, Arabian-African wood boats made of Mahagoni wood. The “blue prints” of the Dhaus date back to the darkest chapter of the moving history of Zanzibar, when the Arabian sultan Sayyid Said used the island as centre of slavery. The dynasty of the emperors from then moved the seat of the government Oman to Zanzibar to control slavery for almost 200 years. This cruel trade was stopped end of the 19th century by the British. Left are the Dhaus, the manoeuvrable and fast wood boats from the Arabs used for slavery and which’s construction Zanzibarians have cultivated to fine art today. And when in each year in July the boat builders celebrate the Makunduchi feast, they fall into ecstasy and conjure away the evil spirits of slavery, to keep them away from the Bantu people, away from the paradise in the Indian Ocean.
3. Al Rashid – The Nomads of Wind
It is hot in the stone desert province Kordofan. Aprx. 50 degrees burn down on this Sudanese part of the endless desert. Today hot winds hiss over the last ruins of the oldest black African state, where over 6000 years ago the “Black Pharaohs” of the Nubian empire “Kusch” reigned.
We are in the kingdom of the “Al Rashid”. The desert nomads are direct descendents of the Abbasid dynasty of the caliph Harun al Rashid and were roaming around the deserts from today’s Iraq to the boarders of Central Africa over 1000 years ago. “Nomads of Wind” is what the former warriors of Abbasid call themselves. Starting from young age, they are taught to fight with weapons and what used to be deadly seriousness is now a days a status symbol and sign of adulthood for young men: the legendary dance with the scimitar. Over two generations, the desert warriors stood in the duty of the Moslem regime of Karthoum, to keep the people of the south oppressed. Only since a few years, traders dare themselves through the desert and stop over at formers custom-posts to the barred zone. The Al Rashid feel themselves as the guards of the “pure teachings” in a male pact of the Sunnite Islam.
4. Namibia – The Spirits Of Makuru
“When the sun is slaughtered in the evening”, so the legend of creation from one of the oldest tribes of Southwest Africa, “Makuru rises from the tree of life”. The Baobab tree, a knotty savannah plant, is considered a medium, a hoard for ancestors. The dry savannah of “Kaokovelds” northwest of Namibia, is one of the hottest areas in the world. This is the place, where according to the legend, Makuru was born and is considered the be the ancestor of all Himba’s, a nomad tribe of cattle farmers slowly threatened by extinction. Cattle’s are the most precious property of the Himba; food source and relic in one. If a tribe member dies, a cattle is sacrificed. The cattle lead the way to the kingdom of death. If a king dies, half the herd is sacrificed. Milk is the main source of food. The meat of the cattle is not to be eaten, since the animals are holy. Often the carcasses are left to the carrion-beasts of the bush and desert. Another part of their animistic belief is cosmetics. Red ironstone is ground to a very fine powder and is considered the colour of their godly chieftain Makuru. Women rub it all over their body. Chopped up herbs mixed with butter or cattle fat is the basis for this strange smelling colour paste: protection and decoration for the skin. They braid grass and plants into their hair. Married women braid the hair of their brothers into their own. A symbol of family clan.
When the shadows get longer and the wood of the Baobab tree starts to groan, then the “holy fire” burns in front of the hut of the chief. When full moon comes, many brothers of different clans meet for midnight séances. Nights like these make the Himbas almost forget the guns of the white settlers, the diamond diggers and the German colonial armies, that killed over 70.000 Himbas. But Makuru, the chieftain and creation myth of the Himba, so the legend says, threw them all together out of the desert of Kaokovelds.
5. The Kings of the Fisher
Today all Zanzibarians live mainly from fishing. The fishmongers do good business. The “Kuzi”, a warm monsoon wind, drives during the summer thousands of giant Stingrays, Sharks, Sword Fish and Black Marlins into their net. The ancient fish halls close to the Darajani market of Stone Town is back from the colonial days. But end of the 19th century, British ships deposited ammunition in the halls. Zanzibar was an exchange good: the Germans gave it to the British for the Northsee island of Helgoland.
Fishing in Zanzibar is often a very dangerous matter. The fishers go out on so-called “Ngalawas”, boats similar to catamarans, to the riffs off the coast and throw out their weir-baskets in hope of catching a Perch or other fish. They often hunt down dangerous Muranes, Octopus and the very sought after Stonefish by only using a wood stick as a harpoon. These diving excursions are very dangerous. The bite of a Musane can lead to painful infections and in the state of shock, even to paralysation. But the prey is just too precious: the poisonous Stonefish costs just as much as a small Stingray in the fish halls of the capitol. If fishers survive long enough, they are considered small kings “in the shadow of paradise”.
6. Hamad el Nil – The Call of the Dervish
When the Nubian Dervish Muhammad Ahmad Ibn Abdallah called out the “Holy War” in 1881 against Egypt and the European colonialists, the green flag of the prophet Mohammed flared across larger parts of today’s Sudan. Abdallah calls himself a Sufi – a teacher and leader of folk Islam – and lets himself be called “Mahdi”, the “Redeemer”. 3 years later, Abdallah and his “Mahdites” got rid of the British and founded an independent theocracy with Omdurman as its capitol, south west of Karthoum. Times have changed, but the fanatic belief stayed and so did the wish for an Islamic state. The descendents of the ancient Dervish order from Omdurman still celebrate today the historic victory of the “Redeemer”, which only did actually last for a short while. Hundreds of Dervish from all corners of the country come together in Omdurman. They all follow the call of “Hamad el Nil”, an ancient Dervish order from the left banks of the Nile. They have no possessions. At the top of their “inner circle” stands a sheikh. He is honoured as a holy man. His Dervish are considered to be masters of meditation and asceticism. It is said, that many of the Dervish of the Sufis are able to realize “another reality” in trance and to resolve and become only a soul. The medium is a circle dance to the rhythm of a drum. An exercise, that can last for hours and usually ends in total ecstasy. Only in this state, so their belief, can the soul open and find the path to god.
7. Karthoum - The Afro Arabian Bazaar
Chaos rules over this city. Over 100 different ethnic groups push through the tight bazaar streets of the afro Arabian metropolis Karthoum: descendents of Nubians from the valleys of the Nuba mountains, Bantu speaking people from the south and Muslims from the Arabian neighbouring countries. An ethnic melting pot at the junction of the white and blue Nile, the veins out the country. Bad tongues maintain, that the capitol of the Sudan is a concentration of all African ethnics and their problems. Fact is, that beginning of 2002, black traders from the south dare to enter the Islamic influenced city again. Since the end of the British colonisation in the largest country of Africa, the Islamic Arabian north is at war with the Christian-animistic south. It is a struggle for power between the regime in Karthoum that wants to force Islamic laws on the people of the south. The front-lines are vague, only the signs of the prophet light up bright and clear over the skyline of the city.
8. Birds of the Wilderness
This is where the real “Black” continent starts. In the days of the ancient African kingdoms, heat, water shortage and wars between the clans made this centre of Western Africa almost unpassable. Even the infamous salt and slavery caravans avoided this “empty place”. Up until today, warnings go out about the “scorching hell of the Niger” at the west edge of the Sahara. The hostile dry zone, is the kingdom of the Woodabe, the last kings of the desert. They are nomads and their life is completely adjusted to the needs of their long-horned Zebu cattles. For centuries then clans and their herds follow the change of rain seasons. They call themselves the Bororo, the “Birds of the Wilderness”. Many times, the traces of the camels of the Bororo and the Tuaregs show the only way out of the scorching hell of the Sahara to the oasis and desert bazaars of the Niger.
9. Shaka Zulu
Shaka, the legendary Zulu king, supposently lived here once. In the beginning of the 19th century, he was to have reigned over 1000 villages in the heartland of this warrior tribe. The Zulu, once the mightiest force in the south of Africa, live withdrawn in their villages of the South African province Kwa Zulu-Natal. But their pride of their bellicose past, still lives in the present. They are the only Africans south of the Sahara that was ever able to defeat European armies. Despite the luminous appearance of the mythical Zulu king Shaka, their history is a history of bloody defeats. The battle of “Blood River-Ncome“ was a battle of the gravest consequence in their history. During the dawn of December 16th, 1838 almost 12.000 Zulu warriors attacked a wagon trail of the “Voortrekkern”, Dutch pioneers, that wanted to steal land from chief Dingane. With spears and clubs, the Zulu tried to fight against muzzle-loaders and canons. An unequal battle that the Boers won in the safety of their wagon barricade. Over 4000 Zulu’s lost their lives and the rest fled up north. Only 40 years later, the battle at rock Isandhlwanawent into history as a wonder: The Zulu armies destroyed an entire battalion of British soldiers. The victory over 1600 colonial soldiers founded the legendary reputation of the Zulu warriors.
Today, they only take a spear into hands at wedding feats or when Goodwill Zwelithini, on-going king of all Zulu comes to visit Ulundi, the capitol of Zulu land. This is the time, when they bring back old rituals and the ”Sangomas”, medicine men and spiritual healers, throw bone oracles and animal blood, to keep the spirits of their ancestors satisfied. Especially for weddings, these rituals are supposed to bring luck. Warrior cries and throat singing are to tempt lions to come close, as prey for the bridegroom. And ever since Nelson Mandela’s fight for a free South Africa has begun, a silent wish roams among the oracles of the Sangoma. One day, so many hope, will the grandchildren of the black warriors celebrate with their white brothers.
Special 1: The Zanzibar-Door
The buildings of Stone Town, the old city of Zanzibar’s main island Unguja, is famous for its massive and over dimensional wood doors of Jackfruit wood and Teak wood. Traditionally, the doors were set up first and then the house was built around these massive giants. Beautiful wood cuts, brass hinges and their size, show off the status even today of their former owners. Forms and woodcuts are samples of the ancient Arabian and Indian influence. In Zanzibar, this has developed into a special Swahili style. Inscriptions and ornaments are shown from the Koran, to bless the house and naturalistic elements to keep the inhabitants safe. Many times, it’s either fish or waves, that stand for life and peace and that remind of the meaning of fish and ocean to the people living on the islands. Many of the brass hinges are from India. The giant doors of the fort in Rajasthan, during the reign of the grand mogul empire, had spikes of brass, to keep the elephant attacks of enemies from trampling down the doors. In Stone Town, there are over 560 original doors like this. The oldest door is from 1695 at the back door of the Memorial Museum. The modern copies, which are produced by woodcutters around the island, are not nearly as impressive as the original, even if the strong Jackfruit and teak wood is not needed any more these days.
Special 2: The Kings of the Fisher
Special 3: Shaka Zulu – Healing Ceremonies