1966 / 20 minutes

Directed by
Frank Speed Robin Horton
Country of production
United Kingdom Nigeria

The communal rituals of most villages of the Eastern Niger Delta focus on two great classes of spirits – the heroes and the water people. The heroes once lived with the men, founded their institutions and brought them their characteristic means of gaining a livelihood. Today, as spirits, they continue to maintain the established institutions and the skills with which people wrest a living from their environment. The water people, by contrast, have never lived with men: they are the creators and owners of the rivers and creeks, controlling the state of the waters and the abundance of fish. The little village of Soku, hidden in the heart of the eastern Delta, has a group of heroes headed by Fenibaso, and its creeks and rivers are controlled by the water-spirit Duminea. This film shows some highlights of the annual ritual for Duminea. As in most Kalabari festivals, spirit possession features prominently in the proceedings. The possession behaviour is controlled by public expectations, which lay down the stage of the proceedings at which each spirit will climb on his priest, as well as the patter of behaviour the latter will display once possessed. This type of possession, indeed, seems best considered, not as a primitive abnormality but as a public chore for which the community commandeers the bodies of perfectly normal citizens.

Language and subtitles
English (no subtitles)
West Africa
Ritual Possession