Modes of Griot Inscription in African Cinema
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A recurring idea in criticism of African cinema has been that the films frequently deploy the narrative techniques of ‘the griot’, the storyteller of African tradition. In particular, Manthia Diawara (1989) has alerted us to the inscription of the oral narrator within the visual discourse of particular African films, while other critics have considered how the films recall the narrative forms of traditional oral tales. However, these critics’ exclusive attention to the visual track and/or narrative form overlooks another inscription of the griot - an inscription that exists at the level of music. Examining music and image relationships in an aesthetically diverse set of African films, this paper demonstrates how griot inscription emerges as a major variable, modulating between music and image within and between texts. This propels music, and the griot, to a status of primary importance in terms of understanding the ways in which the films engage with, and re-appropriate, notions of ‘African-ness’, while negotiating the tensions of address generated when oral forms of narrative meet the literate, industrial form of cinema.