Below, you'll find a YouTube video of the 1984 documentary 'Sur les traces du Renard Pâle' (Tracking the Pale Fox) by Belgian ethnographer and filmmaker Luc de Heusch. It is a fascinating documentary about French ethnographic research into the mythology and rituals of the Dogon, a West-African people living in Mali and northern Burkina-Faso.
The central figure of the documentary is the French anthropologist Marcel Griaule (1898 – 1956), who was affiliated with Georges Bataille's brand of Surrealism. He published several articles in Bataille's journal Documents, the publication which inspired this blog.
Griaule is perhaps best known as the leader of the 1931-1933 Dakar-Djibouti expedition, which became famous paradoxically because of one of its most disaffected participants: the Surrealist and ethnographer Michel Leiris, one of Georges Bataille's closest friends. The mission was organized by the Institut D'Ethnologie and financed by the French government and the Rockefeller Foundation. The mission, which took from 1931 to 1933 would "... criss-cross French West Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, French Equatorial Africa, the Belgian Congo, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Abyssinia, Eritrea, and French Somaliland".
During the Dakar-Djibouti expedition, Griaule studied the culture of the Dogon, a West-African people living in Mali and northern Burkina-Faso. Following the expedition, Griaule would study Dogon culture extensively for more than 25 years, becoming famous for a study on the meaning of masks in the complex mythology of the Dogon.
Jean Rouch, whose utterly mindbending documentary Les Maitres Fous was featured earlier on this blog, narrates the story, and interviews Dogon elders and Griaule's closest collaborator, Germaine Dieterlen.
Valenapio, who posted the videos on YouTube, writes: "Note : As always, the translations and subtitles are clumsily home-made. A dogon game is mentionned in this part. I haven't found a transcription of its name : Griaule uses a phonetic sign for it in his book "Jeux Dogons", and the sound "un" or "in", which exists in french, doesn't exist in english. So, you've got an "ein" instead. Oh, well...".