Past screening

Grandma’s Grammar 3: Of Griots & Genealogies

Directed by: Various
Runtime: 1h 22min Certificate: PG


Directed by: Various
Runtime: 1h 22min Certificate: PG
Last Screened: Sat 27th Apr 2024

The third programme of Grandma’s Grammar explores generations and times through oratory poetics. Featuring Grandma’s Grammar by Jean Pierre Bekolo and A Single Word (Une simple parole) Khady Sylla and Mariama Sylla.

Grandma’s Grammar / dir. Jean Pierre Bekolo / 1996 / 8’ 

Jean-Pierre Bekolo sat down with legendary Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety, who propounds a conceptualisation of cinema rooted in the lessons and spirit of grandmother. Playing with the rhyming slippages between grand-mère and grammaire, Mambety declares that “grandma herself allows us to betray grammar,” as she demands a mode of storytelling that renews and reinvents itself. The grandmother in Mambety’s invocation emerges as a profound agent of genealogical continuity and aesthetic potential, in an oratory poetics that imagines a “once upon the future.”

A Single Word (Une simple parole) / dir. Khady Sylla and Mariame Sylla / 2013 / 63’

“Who will continue to sing the lineage?” Filmmaker and novelist Khady Sylla and her sister Mariama, “united in a quest for past time,” sought to record the presence and sagacity of their grandmother Penda Diogo Sarr in her village, Barela Ndiaye. Sarr is a griot, guardian of the Wolof oral genealogical tradition. From the perspective of a generation steeped in the written word, Mariama reflects: “Speech travels through time… Penda lived during colonisation at its most difficult moments: forced labour, the conscription of soldiers… She lived during independence, the rule of the new elites, and the gradual hegemony of the written word over oral tradition. She lived through the gradual disappearance of this world. The spoken word defies death and oblivion… we live in a silent, nebulous world, where the notion of dialoguing, which includes sharing and talking to each other, becomes obsolete.”

Une Simple Parole, as ancestral tribute, retains an imminent melancholy. Khady Sylla, whose voice is heard in this poetic essay, died in October 2013; Mariama finished the film, in a layered dialogue across generations and times.

With an introduction by Elena Gorfinkel