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Information reinforcement based on video recordings of various ethnic cultures in Senegal

Research period: April 2020 – March 2022 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years)

Coordinator MISHIMA Teiko

Outline

Objectives

In 2017, video footage was taken of Senegal’s “Culture Week” featuring the Soninke people for a collection of video materials used in a Minpaku information project. The results were published through the production of Videotheque program no. 4 (FY2018) and Minpaku Visual Ethnography (FY2019). The main purpose of these programs was to focus on the key people involved and the way the event was managed, thus providing an overall picture of “Culture Week”, and there is an enormous amount of left-over footage that it was not possible to include in the limited time. Each one of the performances which took place in 20 different villages showcase ethnic culture and contain valuable information, but they have never been given due consideration.
In this project, a database will be used as a platform for the video footage of these performances, and detailed written information will be added for each. Through this, we aim to promote a more detailed understanding of ethnic culture and achieve our objective of preserving and restoring it to the local community.

Description

The stage performances at 20 different villages depicting ethnic culture form the basis of this database. In addition to performances enacting things such as wedding ceremonies and artisan culture, each stage is the scene of recitations by griot (traditional musicians who typically provide the accompaniment at festivals), dancing, and greetings to the audience by the events’ hosts and patrons. The primary objective for the database will be the addition of accurate information about the content of these performances and their cultural background, as this is where the ethnic culture, customs and traditions that local people want to preserve are most clearly manifested. In addition to this, there are interviews with key people in various different positions, and audio information on what it is that the griot musicians recite, as well as visual information about the timing of their recitations and how the audiences react to them. By supplementing multiple sources of information in this way, we can promote a deeper understanding of the ethno-cultural background to the stage performances.
In the first phase of this project we will divide up the existing footage into different sections for the 20 performances, interviews, dancing, and the griot’s recitations before and after the performances. We will then process the data to make it a suitable size for viewing on portable devices. The second phase will be to determine the items of information to be included for the 20 videos, and to add the basic information. In the third phase, we will transcribe any words spoken on stage in the local languages of Soninke, Bambara and Fulani, and then translate them into Western languages and Japanese. In order to do this, we will host workshops in the local community and prepare the database in cooperation with the narrators and traditional musicians responsible for passing down their history to successive generations.
When the database becomes operational, we plan to introduce a voice comment function. The cultural successors in the communities in question are often unable to read or write. With this database it will become possible to preserve information in the form of voice recordings that was previously only ever stored in people’s memories. Users will then be able to convert this into written information. As such, we expect the database to become a highly versatile means of information exchange.

Expected results

Note: Results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
Firstly, we will be able to make comprehensive and effective use of the video footage already shot on site. Through this, we can gain a deeper understanding of the ethnic culture that the local people want to preserve and pass on.
Secondly, by returning the video footage to the local community and introducing a function enabling written and spoken comments from local people, we will not only be able to the preserve the materials, but also promote their widespread use.
Thirdly, we will be able to substantively contribute to the preservation of culture for the people of the local communities. The traditions and history of their ethnic culture have previously only ever been stored in memories; we will provide the local community with a new means of passing on their culture.
Finally, by making the database a forum, which will be accessible both to research institutions and people from the local communities, we will contribute to realizing the overall objectives of the Info-Forum Museum initiative.

Outcomes from 2020

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

① We carefully went through footage recorded during culture week in Senegal in 2017 (over five days in 20 villages), dividing it into 240 pieces of image data according to performance, place and scene. We took special care to pick up the rich voice data such as songs and speeches which we were unable to insert in the Videotheque or in the series of Ethnographic of Minpaku. Film. With every performance which introduced ethnic culture, we prepared them without cutting the takes and picked up even those dance and performances which did not have any direct relationship to the program of culture week, as expressions of ethnic culture.
② We produced the Database including various necessary basic data in French.
③ We discussed with the Minpaku coordinator regarding the database platform, including the appropriate amount of data for mobile device responsiveness and the possibility of including the exchange of oral comments. Furthermore, we requested that the 240 pieces of data are fed into the platform and this work is currently underway.
④ We wrote about the project background and concept in Minpaku Tsushin Online.
⑤ We presented on the project concept to the Japan Association for African Studies and at our Inter-University Research Project meeting.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

The first step for this entire project was to divide the film content into appropriate sections after a thorough look at the film content. In this year of the project, we produced 240 pieces of film data. Further, in the second stage of work, we set the information headings for the pieces of film data and inserted the basic information in French. We consulted with Minpaku’s coordinator regarding the database platform, and in addition to the data processing, requested for them to feed the data into the platform, a task that is currently underway. The third stage is preparing the English version of the database, and we are aiming to hold workshops with the target community on database functionality and how to add data in the next year of the project and preparations for this are currently progressing smoothly.
Further, we wrote papers and gave presentations on the concept of this project.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

MISHIMA, Teiko, 2021, “Construction of video database on “Cultural week” by Soninke”, Minpaku Tsushin Online, 3, pp.8-9, March 21st 2021.
MISHIMA, Teiko, “Regional radio and cultural movement in Soninke : Observation about video coverage on “Cultural week”, The 57th Annual Academic Conference of Japan Association for African Studies, on line, May 23th-24th 2020.