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Images of Power

Images of Power

(p.101) 7: Images of Power
The Adventure of the Real
University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyzes the film Les Maîtres fous, which established Jean Rouch's international renown. Les Maîtres fous concerns the hauka spirit possession cult in and around Accra, the capital of what is now the independent state of Ghana but which was then still the British colony of the Gold Coast. The mediums were mostly young Songhay men who had migrated from the middle reaches of the Niger River, some 650 miles to the north in the French colony of Niger. Referred to as “Zabrama” in the film, they represented merely the most recent wave of a pattern of seasonal migration from the drought-afflicted southern margin of the Sahelian Desert to the economically dynamic cities on the coastal plains of West Africa that had been going on since at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Jean Rouch, films, ethnographic filmmakers, Les Maîtres fous, hauka spirit possession, migrants, Songhay men

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