Zin’naariyâ! (‘The Wedding Ring’)

It’s a beautiful new film by the Nigerien journalist and film director, Rahmatou KEÏTA, which explores the themes of longing, love and travel. The film is called Zin’naariyâ, which means the wedding ring.

Tiyaa, the main character, looks in the mirror as a woman combs her hair.

Tiyaa, the main character, looks in the mirror as a woman braids her hair.

 

The trailer itself is quite spellbinding.

 

 

 

Here are a few synopses of the film:

 

 

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This rare film from Niger, a simple love story, is beautifully narrated in the Sahel tradition, with an added dash of cynicism regarding the politics of race. Striking Nigerien actress Magaajyia Silberfeld plays young Tiyaa, a member of a prestigious aristocratic family. She has come back home to the sultanate of Damagaram from her studies in Paris. While there, she met an equally privileged young man whose family comes from a village not far from her own. Life is pleasant and peaceful following Tiyaa’s return, but time passes and the handsome suitor is slow in visiting. Meanwhile, Tiyaa has the opportunity to discover in her surroundings other women whose stories of love, marriage, desertion and divorce reveal the truth of the relationships between women and men in Sahelian society.

The Wedding Ring is a stark but surprisingly tender and beautifully-made film from a country that rarely features in the news yet constantly questions and has actively resisted change from the outside world.  https://www.ica.org.uk/whats-on/bfi-london-film-festival-wedding-ring

 

Women carry calabashes. A scene from the film, ZIN’NAARIYÂ!, The Wedding Ring

Women carry calabashes. A scene from the film, ZIN’NAARIYÂ!, The Wedding Ring

 

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Nigerien actress Magaajyia Silberfeld plays young Tiyaa, a member of a prestigious aristocratic family.

Nigerien actress Magaajyia Silberfeld plays the lead character- young Tiyaa, a member of a prestigious aristocratic family.

Recently returned to her home in the Sultanate of Zinder after completing her degree abroad, a young woman suffering from the pain of a lost love finds renewal while awaiting the mystical promise of a new moon.

The Wedding Ring is a story of love, pain, sensuality, and marriage. Rahmatou Keïta’s second feature offers an empowering female-character-driven take on romantic fiction. It’s also an immersive introduction to the fast-fading customs of Niger’s Sahelian people.

Tiyaa (Magaajyia Silberfeld), a clever woman of aristocratic birth, should have the world at her feet when she returns home to the Sultinate of Zinder after completing her degree abroad. But Tiyaa is aimless and burdened by the pain of a lost love. In the absence of any better idea, she reluctantly seeks counsel from a zimma, a Zarma Songhay wise man who seeks answers to life’s mysteries in the elements. He advises that, on the eve of the new moon, she should procure a foreign symbol of marriage: a plain gold wedding band. Otherwise, she will only risk more heartache.

Tiyaa is at first skeptical, but she is also patient, and she spends the days leading up to the new moon in a kind of pedestrian road movie, wandering the community as she waits for the lunar event. Encounters with women of various generations open Tiyaa’s eyes to the possibility of romantic passion, and she witnesses how the women of Niger thoughtfully measure their own innate desire for passion and happiness. http://www.tiff.net/films/the-wedding-ring

 

 

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When the bright young Tiyaa (played by Magaajyia Silberfeld) returns to her home in the Sultanate of Zinder after studying abroad in the “land of the white people”, there is something amiss. She is downcast, she sleeps outside on the roof of a house, and she doesn’t take care of her hair or apply henna to her hands. But while she denies there is anything wrong, the cause of her pain is no great mystery.

As a zimma mystic quickly discerns when she reluctantly visits him, Tiyaa is lovesick. What follows unfolds like a fable about a princess and her absent prince in the Sahelian desert. A friend is given instructions by the wise zimma on how to cure Tiyaa’s affliction, and she sets about acquiring the requisite ingredients (such as a wedding ring) and waiting for right moment (the new moon).

Simply shot and straightforwardly told, largely through the experiences of female characters, Zin’naariyâ! explores the traditions of the Sahel and what happens when they rub up against Western norms, a theme that is tenderly reflected in the way director Rahmatou Keita juxtaposes Western classical music with striking scenes of the Sahel. http://africanarguments.org/2016/10/27/four-bold-new-films-by-african-directors-you-need-to-see/

 

A man playfully pats the head of a Fulani child. A scene from the film.

A man playfully pats the head of a Fulani child. A scene from the film.

 

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Recently returned to her home in the Sultanate of Zinder after completing her degree abroad, Tiyaa, a young woman suffering from the pain of lost love, finds renewal while awaiting the mystical promise of a new moon. Rahmatou Keïta’s second feature slowly reveals itself as a story of female empowerment that also doesn’t shirk from the uncomfortable realities of Western influence on African cultures. A magical and immersive journey into the little-explored, and fast-fading, customs of Niger’s Sahelian people, The Wedding Ring is that rare thing: a truly original cinematic experience.  http://www.filmafrica.org.uk/the-wedding-ring-zinnaariya/

 

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The film offers a glimpse into the Fulani Sahelian culture.

The film offers a glimpse into the Fulani Sahelian culture.

 

The director, Rahmatou Keïta, is an emblem of the strong African woman. Born in Niger, award winning filmmaker Keïta is a daughter of the Sahel, a descendant of its oldest dynasty, of Sundjata Keïta. After studying philosophy and linguistics in Paris, she began her career with documentary Femmes d’Afrique (Women of Africa). In 2005, her first feature doc AL’LÈÈSSI, about the pioneers of African cinema, was selected by the Cannes Film Festival and went on to receive several awards, including Best Documentary Award at Montreal, FIFAI and the Sojourner Truth Award at Cannes. A committed militant of the African cause, Keïta is a founding member of the Panafrican Association for Culture (ASPAC) and takes an active part in the dialogue of cultures and civilizations. The Wedding Ring is her first fiction film.

 

 

“When I was a little girl, cinema was like magic in Niamey. In Lakuruusu, my neighborhood, the Queen of Sheba and Cleopatra, that we thought were Africans queens, were definitely White women.
They looked like Gina Lolobrigida and Liz Taylor. We were wrong. We didn’t know anything about our history before cinema came.

On certain nights, we were close to riots because Ramses II, alias Yul Brynner had resuscitated in The Seven Samuraï or Charlton Heston seen on the eve as Moses had become “el Cid”…
One should say that in those days cinema was a white man’s concern and white men in films were somewhat of a divine nature. Images had such power that we did not doubt one second what we saw an screen. Until the day our actors appeared.

The women were not vamps, and the men were unlike any of the Hollywood stars we were used to watching. They were ordinary people, with a normal tan and normal features. People were shocked.”  

 

Rahmatou Keïta, Nigerien journalist & director of

Zin’naariyâ! (‘The Wedding Ring)

wedding-ring-7

 

 

 

 

The film is screening at Film Africa, the annual RAS film festival, which is taking place in venues across London from 28 October to 6 November.

 

By Chika Oduah

 

 

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