This short film (an introduction to a planned longer film) inspired by Edouard Glissant's concept of Opacity and Manthia Diawara's Opera du Monde. It directly speaks to the ethical issues faced by visual anthropologists but also proposes the appropriation of Glissant's opacity as a skill and mindset for convivial cohabitation in an increasingly multicultural world. The short film is an attempt at understanding the Rastamen's opacity by capturing their environment, that is, the Lower Main Street (Observatory, Cape Town).
I came across Edouard Glissant from the Malian film maker, Manthia Diawara, Opera du monde. I was struck by his concept of opacity and went on to read more of his work. This moving poem, as my friend called it, was born out of my own anxieties and reflections about being a black African female ethnographer, a beautiful irony, considering the fact that just decades ago, I wasn’t recognized as fully human within the discipline of Anthropology. I have been extremely worried about reproducing systems of alterity through my own internalized metanarratives, especially the subconscious ones. This moving poem provides more questions than answers about conducting ethnography in post colonial and post apartheid contexts. It is a tribute to Edouard Glissant, whose work is just not famous enough in my opinion. It is also a fantasist work that dares to ask the question, what if everyone just minded their own business?
Given the lack of material (I only had a phone with no stabilizer), I decided to shoot something really short. At first, I wanted to make a documentary on the Rastamen in the Lower Main street because of their peculiar way of life, and dressing style. I was new in Cape Town and this looked really "exotic" to me. I also knew it would be exotic for my viewers. However, after coming across the concept of opacity, I changed my mind and decided to capture the street instead. It wasn't difficult as I didn't need anyone's permission (as far as I was concerned) to capture the road or the traffic. I still have the initial script of the film and hope to film the whole documentary in its entirety once I have the appropriate material. I consider this short video to be an introduction. Because I am a very shy person, even taking shots out in the street was a bit scary but I got used to it and didn't mind people staring at me by the time I was shooting the last scenes. I found great satisfaction in filming and editing this short video. I know it's just the start and can't wait to see what else I produce. My mind is racing with ideas. I am glad I mustered the courage to produce this short video. I have learnt a lot about respect for what one does not understand. I didn't understand the Lowermain street Rastamen but I resisted projecting my own transparency upon them. Not everything needs to be understood, not everything needs to be complete. I have learnt that humans are inherently incomplete beings, obsessed with completeness. On our quest for completeness, we often misrepresent and over simplify the things that we think we need to understand. The world is complex, and it's okay to be confused. Nobody is whole but we are all part of a whole. That's the beauty of life and that's what this short introductory film tried to capture through opacity.
Review. An excellent exploration of the struggles of the researcher, the invasiveness of ‘producing' knowledge, set against a theoretical reflection on opacity using spoken word.