Playful women and traditional men


Martin Gruber takes us journey to the village, where two opposite traditions coexist together. 

How did you come by this extraordinary village and the ritual? 

I was invited by Frank, the co-director to the village to make some films for him. He studied the Nalu language and had been there for quite some time before my arrival.

What did you learn from the women of the village? Did it take time for them to get used to you?

I learned from them how they were able to contest male dominance with wit, humour and performances. I think they quickly got used to our presence and playfully integrated us in their ritual.

Did you have any big challenges during the filming? If there’s anything you could have done differently what would it be?

It was a very big challenge to film for the entire four days of the ritual - especially as we did not have a place in the village but had to commute for half an hour by boat to another village where we were sleeping, charging batteries, transferring data, ect. I would have done a proper research before and after the ritual if I had the chance to film it again. The women’s perspective seems missing but on the other hand they refused to explain their perspective to us on our terms but chose to play with us on their terms. I think this can be seen as a form of resistance.  

Are you in touch with the people from the village anymore? Do you ever plan to go back?

I have not been in touch myself since the filming but Frank has been there. I would love to continue my research and filming there but do not have the opportunity right now.

Is there anything specific you would hope for the audience to understand or feel about the documentary?

I would like the film to be able to convey the atmosphere and the women’s power and ingenuity to create this particular space.

Did you eventually understand how these two rituals could coexistence? Can you find any similarities of that kind of coexistence in your own daily life?

Even though the two rituals are usually not performed on the same occasion, the co-existence of these institutions did not seem to be a problem for the participants. Only the Imam argued strongly against the secret society. More generally, I experienced the coexistence of different belief systems as rather common – in different African countries but also in other parts of the world including Germany. I guess it is not unusual for people to borrow from or draw from different sources in their „sense-making“. 

Personally, while I consider myself as a rather rational person, I sometimes find myself in situations that I would call „supernatural“. Some strange coincidences or encounters with people.