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Documentary about Who Controls Africa

Who Controls Africa is a 2014 documentary by New Atlantis Full Documentaries. The documentary looks into the power of women in Africa.

Without a doubt, women control Africa. They educate the children and stay behind when men are gone. Women are the guardians of African tradition. If they rebelled, there would be no Africa. But also there are the elders of the tribe. As we see from this documentary, they too have influence. But above the women and tribal leaders, modernity has imposed the power of the state.
In Bijago Island of Guinea Bissau, this documentary reveals the power wielded by women in this part of the world. The Queen of Canogo Island died three years ago. The village is selecting one woman from among 3 suitable candidates to replace her. The three women Maria, Dora and Amuna seen in this documentary, have been chosen. The role of the queen is crucial. There is a king who deals with the men’s issues, but he is not the queen’s husband. Women are the backbone of the sociopolitical organization of the Bijago Island. Women here own the lands which they farm. They also have a bigger say when it comes to relationships and sex. In Bijago, children belong to women and it is uncommon for them to live with the same man for more than 2 years. Bijago Island is located 70 nautical miles off the coast of Guinea Bissau. This has allowed the preservation of one of the world’s most peculiar traditions.
Julio Atiram, the king of the Canogo Island tells this documentary that their ancestors fled into Bijagos Island to escape the reign of a tyrant queen. The king is assisted by a cabinet of ministers and 2 distinguished people, the okinka (Prime Minister) and the spokesperson who also guards the secret fetishes. Maria tells the narrator of this documentary that being queen is difficult. People come to you with their problems, but you have none to run to. Dora agrees with her. The wife of the king says she understands why none of the women wants to be queen. Her mission as king’s wife is to support him in his administration.
Adelimo Djamaca interviewed in this documentary says that the king is important in life in the villages of Bijago. He makes major decisions like when the youth can be initiated. The queen controls the initiation of the women. The presence of the spirits order daily life in Bijago. Every morning the king and his assistants make a blood sacrifice to the spirits. As we can see in the documentary, the king sacrifices a cock. Andres Da Costa, the okinka explains that all who seek the king must go through him. He also delivers messages from other villages. He summarizes all the complaints before they are brought before the king. He is the one left in charge when the king is away.
The candidates for queen visit the half a dozen villages with a total population of 2500. The three are pictured in this documentary visiting the villages in the company of the king. He accompanies them so they can hear the problems of the people. The villagers complain of the hippos that they say eat their rice when it’s still green. The authorities of Bissau prohibit the killing of hippos saying they are going to become extinct but the people want a solution to the matter.
During the assemblies of the villages, the real problems affecting the villages are discussed but above all they dance. The objective is to work themselves into a frenzy so they can be possessed by the spirits. The sprit called Rebok only possesses women upon initiation. The queens are very powerful here. When she decides that one must be killed, the order is executed. The king says working with the women is difficult. They believe they are always right.
The people of Bijago cultivate rice and fish for subsistence. They almost don’t use money, no one buys anything. But Djamaca says this is changing. The youth are attending European schools and learning foreign culture. Bijago culture is fast fading. Pictured in this documentary is a spring with clear water. It’s for the exclusive use of the king, the queens and the elders. Its water is purified by the spirits which also care for the good judgment of the governors. The king decries the erosion of the Bijago culture. He says soon there will be no one to communicate with the spirits since the youth do not want to be initiated.
The community has a raft of issues at hand. The schools have no teachers and hospitals have no personnel to attend to them. Locals are tired of empty promises from the Bissau authorities. But Toe Da Silva, the fetish trader tells them the most important thing is for the community to be united. He challenges them that if they don’t want leaders imposed on them from Bissau; one of them must offer himself for election. The ceremony of the proclamation of the 3 queens is conducted at the king’s residence. As we see in the documentary, a blood sacrifice must be offered. Palm wine is drunk at the ceremony. Soon it becomes a drunken frenzy. The king’s dream for his people is that they may live peacefully without outsiders bothering them. He also wants a doctor and a professor to come to them.
In Mali, Fanta Diallo a law student says women do not have any rights. She says although the Mali government has ratified conventions recognizing women’s right, the laws are dictated in favor of men. This is evident in the documentary. In Africa, the woman drives the cart of survival even in places where the dictates of tradition curtails their very life. They work the land, fetch water and breastfeed the children. But they are also students, teachers, business people and artists. The African woman is determined to fight against established norms. Madame Bamba is a fish trader in Mali. She supplies the commodity to retailers. Even fishermen loan money from her. She is an example of how women drive the engine of development in Africa. Suzanne Kourouma is a film director. As we can see from images in this documentary, she is shooting a film. She says women face challenges in every field of work. Many believe that their place is in the kitchen. Women in the film industry find it even more difficult because they are branded all sorts of names.
In Bamako Mali, locals are tuned in to radio Dembe. Campaigns for legislative elections are in motion. Mali, a former French colony underwent successful transition to multiparty politics in 1992. It’s a young democracy built on the basis of a wide ethnic diversity. Election posters are being put up. Half a dozen political parties as well as independents are competing for election. The most voted candidates in the first round square it off in the second round. Locals interviewed in this documentary say they expect the polls to be free and fair. They also want to elect leaders who will serve the interest of the people.
Ibrahim Berthe and Mohammed Kimbili are both contesting in the elections. Both worry about the transparency of the upcoming elections. In a radio interview shown in this documentary both claim the town councils are always keen to have one of their own elected. Ibrahim Berthe is a lawyer and activist for democracy. He is the deputy candidate for National Congress for Democratic Initiative, the party that led the opposition against military dictatorship. He is running for the second time. For him what Mali needs is what Africa needs; laws and policies against corruption. Mohammed Kimbili is the Head of Islamic Council of Mali. He is contesting for the first time. He defends the Islamic Law-Sharia as the only state law which he intends to use to expose the rot in the systems of the state. Mali is 90 % Muslim. The 2 leaders disagree on the issue of women’s rights. While Berthe says women deserve to have equal rights as men. Kimbiri denies the fact that women’s rights are not respected. He in fact argues that women are treated well in the Islamic religion. In the radio interview in this documentary the two leaders don’t agree when it comes to ablation of women. Kimbili says since Prophet Muhammad did not prohibit it, it is just fine. But Berthe is of the opinion that if it has proven health effects on young girls then it must be abolished.
Sofia Sangare, Berthe’s wife says it’s not easy being a politician’s wife. Her family has to go hours even days without seeing him. If images seen of Berthe’s political rally in this documentary is anything to go by, he is a popular candidate. Mr Berthe says the system is not perfect and more needs to be done to ensure no vote rigging. According to him, 80 percent of Mali’s population lives in the rural areas and do not have ID cards making it difficult for the vote to be accompanied by an ID card. The people cast their vote on the Election Day. Seemingly, the election was peaceful. Ibrahim Berthe enters the second round of elections.
Another real power in Africa is that of the sorcerers. They control the population with their fetishes and magic spell. Kerman, a sorcerer explains that every medicine has its requirements that if not fulfilled affects decrees. From images in this documentary, he uses leaves for his trade. Kerman says he learnt what he knows from his father and what he knows he will teach his son. He says weak people barely have magical strength while kings and rulers have the most. Sickness is not a natural occurrence but an evil spell cast on pothers by means of sorcery. Another sorcerer has power to overcome the spell.
The job of the blacksmith is also intimately linked with magic. The knowledge of manipulating iron grants him secret power. Yusuf Mohammed, a blacksmith interviewed in this documentary says earlier in Africa, blacksmiths were looked upon as nuclear power technicians. Their knowledge was heavily relied upon. Hunters occupy yet another profession related to magic. Sekou Traore, a hunter explains in this documentary that before hunting, they ask the spirits for permission and talk to the animals they are going to hunt. But sorcerers are the most feared. Memuna, a witch explains that once every year, sorcerers meet to offer human sacrifice, usually children. They even eat their meat.
In Elmina Ghana, we see yet another man who wields power and influence over the people. Nana Kodwo Kondua VI is the king of Elmina. Erik Ansha is a fisherman. He is the leader of his group which is part of the Asafo group of companies in Elmina. This is an organization that was of military nature in the past. Today it carries out social tasks at the service of the king. The Asafo companies were the divisions of the military at the service of the kings of the Ghana coast. Until the end of the 19th Century the power of these kings was absolute. When the English prevailed upon them to abandon their guns, they became mutual aid groups in the society. Asafo’s liturgy of wars also changed into artistic presentation. Images seen in this documentary show the places where the weapons were kept and new soldiers initiated. Today they have transformed into ornately decorated buildings with sculptures of war gods and even European ships and planes.
Also seen in this documentary are 2 fortresses standing in the small fishing town of Elmina; one Portuguese, the other Dutch. They remain here as memories of the colonial times. For centuries these forts were used as centers of slave trade. The kings were strong allies of the Europeans in the slave trade. The Asafo invaded the villages, waged war to capture victims to be sold as slaves. Today, Elmina is pays tribute to its king in the Bakatue festival. The king has more of symbolic power as opposed to real power. King Kodwo says real power lies with the politicians. The 10 Asafo companies participate in boat riding competitions in honor of the king.
Nana Addae Yebo, lecturer of the University of Kumasi informs this documentary that the Asafo companies came together in the 17th Century under the control of the Asantehene. The group has not lost their religious nature. As evident in this documentary, there are still sculptures of war gods who were once sources of strength for the warriors. Kofi Annan, head of Asafo Company No. 4 explains each of the sculptures and their meaning to the Asafo group. Auntie Sussie, Erik’s mother is proud of her son. She says unlike most youth he is a good fisherman and has excellent paddling skills. She exudes confidence that Erik’s group will win the boat competition.
Bakatue, the annual event of the Asafo is celebrated in the 1st week of July. In this documentary subjects throng the ceremony in which a lot of gold jewelry is won, this is a reminder of town’s past. The position presented by Addae Yeo in this documentary is that all over Africa, people are trying to marry the new and the old. The origin of the Asafo Kings dates back to supernatural time. Asafo though stripped of its military power still has magical influence that controls matters such as rain and protects the people from evil spirits.
In a country with more than 100 kings, the elected leaders are keen when making major decisions. Usually they consult the kings to avoid confrontations with the communities. After a bitter argument Asafo 2, Erik’s group qualifies for the final round of boat competitions and the day comes to a close. The king returns home. Life goes on.

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