Bamako Sigi-kan (The Bamako Pact)

By Manthia Diawara

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« The Bamako Pact » exposes a simple idea that nonetheless needs constant recalling – namely that simple folk are not easily fooled, that they are acutely aware, and constantly reflect upon the world. Manthia Diawara meets them in the streets he grew up in, and their complicity results in the portrait of a country that is seeking its path, that reflects upon democracy and what it means to be a citizen. The artists are aware of this and reflect it in their work. If there is a pact, it is between these simple folk and the artists. It is their common desire to make this town a place of quality, to inscribe it, in short, in the tradition of its name, « bama » meaning crocodile in Bambara, and « ko » a pool. Bamako’s creation myth tells of a pact between the spirits and man to build a haven of peace and prosperity.
Diawara listens to what people have to say, and invites us to accompany him as he goes out to meet them. But the documentary is not only a testimony. It is also an aesthetic reflection. « Bamako Sigi-kan » adopts the jerky rhythm of uncertainty, a vision of an evasive reality. Arthur Jaffa’s camera spins from shadows to light, from silhouettes to colours. Bamako is captured in a breath, in a series of instants, far from obviousness. A touristy image would be meaningless here. There are no eternal tracking shots of streets and people filmed from cars, nor the anecdotal quest for an astonishing detail. What interests Diawara lies elsewhere, in the understanding of the place that unites the people he encounters, of the artists’ aesthetic that reinforces this connection and, through their sensitivity, testifies to the reality of the pact.
The Bamako pact is not a contract, it is a quest, or thought-in-process. Diawara captures it in the instant, but also reveals its rooting in tradition and memory – those that he shares with these people that he comes from far to find, he the university lecturer, the New York intellectual, but whom he infinitely respects. « Bamako Sigi-kan » is thus both an intimate gaze and a call to move away from the obvious to let oneself be jostled by the encounters and artists’ work. He reveals an Africa in the making, marked by doubt and self-questioning, but with the strength of an ancient pact that he seeks to make as topical as possible.

Mali/France/USA, 2002, Digital video, 80 min, colour, camera: Arthur Jaffa. Prod. K’A Yéléma Productions (01 53 62 05 90, [email protected]à.fr).///Article N° : 5662

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