Accepted paper:

Greeting Seyfou Tchengar Audiovisually—Challenges and Prospects of the Documentation of Zar Spirits in Gondar, Ethiopia

Authors:

Itsushi Kawase (National Museum of Ethnology)

Paper short abstract:

My paper discusses how I approach Zar spirits in Gondar, Ethiopia audiovisually, through several film projects. Particularly, the cinematic approach that is employed for depicting the sensuous quality of the ceremony as well as portraying several spirits including Seyfou Tchengar, who is said to be one of the most powerful spirits in the region, will be discussed.

Paper long abstract:

Zar is a possession cult that is widely prevalent in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. The Zar ceremony is held in Gondar, northern Ethiopia, and it involves being possessed by various spirits, qolle, who are believed to live in places that are scarcely inhabited by humans, such as the wilderness, deserts, lakes, and oceans. A spirit is believed to be of a certain sex, and each has a different home and character. The possessed body of the Zar spirit medium is referred to as Yäzar Färäs (literally meaning 'the horse of Zar') In this rhetoric, spirit possession can be understood as the spirit riding the body of the medium. Participants of Zar are described as amamaqi (literally meaning 'the one who warms up the space'), while the body of the medium through which the spirit departs is referred to by a word which best translates as 'coldness'. The ceremonial space has to be 'warmed up' by the dance, music, and various kinds of smells to awaken the spirits' power. Since 2001, I have been filming the Zar scene in Gondar, following several spirit mediums, and producing ethnographic films. In this paper, I will be discussing how I approach Zar spirits in Gondar, Ethiopia audiovisually. Particularly, the cinematic approach that is employed for depicting the sensuous quality of the ceremony as well as portraying several spirits including Seyfou Tchengar, who is said to be one of the most powerful spirits in the region, will be discussed.

panel V07
Representing the non-representable: visual representations of extraordinary beings in ethnographic films