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Streaming video

Title In search of cool ground. Part 2, The Kwegu : the Mursi trilogy / directed and produced by Leslie Woodhead
Published London : Royal Anthropological Institute, 1982


Description 1 online resource (57 min.)
Series Disappearing world
Summary ̀The Kwegu' is an entirely tasteful and dignified presentation of the harsh realities of subsistence living, and it may help us understand how, even in stateless societies, dominated groups come to accept their domination as part of the natural order. The Kwegu are hunters and cultivators who live along the banks of the River Omo in Southwestern Ethiopia. They are experts on the river, manipulating their dugout canoes through a swift current where falling overboard could mean delivery into the jaws of a crocodile. The Mursi are cattle herders and cultivators who live with the Kwegu for several months of the year. This film is about the relationship between these two groups of people. The Mursi number about 5,000 and the Kwegu about 500. Both groups cultivate flood land along the Omo during the dry season, when the Mursi may also bring their cattle to the river. But the Kwegu keep themselves separate from the Mursi; they speak their own language among themselves, although they are bilingual and communicate with the Mursi only in Mursi. When the Mursi and Kwegu share a village, the Kwegu houses usually form a separate cluster. When a Kwegu marries, a vital part of the bridewealth is livestock. But since the Kwegu do not keep cattle, a system of exchange has developed whereby the Kwegu perform services in exchange for Mursi cattle. In addition to providing bridewealth cattle, the Mursi patron protects ̀his' Kwegu from other Mursi and acts on his behalf in bridewealth negotiations. In return the Kwegu provides his patron with honey and game meat and is available to ferry him and his family across the Omo when needed. This is a vital economic service, since the Mursi cultivate on both banks of the river and yet do not, unlike the Kwegu, live at the Omo all the year round. The Kwegu are therefore ̀guardians' of the canoes as well as ferrymen. There is some debate about the nature of the Mursi-Kwegu relationship. The anthropologist advisor for the film, David Turton, sees the relationship as one of domination. The Mursi depend economically on the Kwegu more than the Kwegu do on them, and yet the Kwegu see themselves as dependent, in a different, more extreme sense, on the Mursi they cannot marry without the aid of Mursi patron. The Mursi exploit the economic services of the Kwegu through their control of Kwegu marriage. Jean Lydall, in her review of the film in RAIN (June 1982), suggests another interpretation for the exchange of services. She wonders if indeed the Kwegu are not making the Mursi 'pay through the nose' for the services they require. This film suggests that far from being second-class citizens, the Kwegu are sharp manipulators who have acquired protection and material wealth by making their services indispensable to the Mursi. Turton defended his interpretation in a reply to Lydall (RAIN, No. 51, pp. 10-12) and has more recently provided a more detailed description and analysis of the Mursi-Kwegu relationship, following the same argument as developed in the film but including much additional ethnographic information (Turton, 1986). The Kwegu won the Grand Prix du Festival at the Festival International du Film de Grand Reportage in Paris. This film is the second part of a trilogy, In Search of Cool Ground. The film is particularly recommended for courses in anthropology, African studies, patron-client relationships, ethnicity and multi-cultural studies
Notes Title from resource description page (viewed Feb. 6, 2014)
Event Recorded in Ethiopia
Notes This edition in English and Mursi with English subtitles
Subject Kwegu (African people)
Ethnology -- Ethiopia.
Kwegu (African people)
Manners and customs.
Ethiopia -- Social life and customs
Genre/Form Documentary films.
Nonfiction films.
Documentary films.
Nonfiction films.
Films autres que de fiction.
Form Streaming video
Author Turton, David, contributor.
Woodhead, Leslie, 1937- film director, film producer.
Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, production company.
Other Titles Kwegu
In search of cool ground