Directed by Claudia Milne .
As retailers, wholesalers, and negotiators, Asante women of Ghana dominate the huge Kumasi Central Market amid the laughter, argument, colour and music. The crew of this Disappearing World film have jumped into the fray, explored, and tried to explain the complexities of the market and its traders. The success of this crew is impressive. As the film was to be about women traders, an all female film crew was selected and the rapport between the two groups of women is remarkable. The relationship was no doubt all the stronger because the anthropologist acting as advisor to the crew, Charlotte Boaitey, is herself an Asante. The people open up for the interviewers telling them about their lives as traders, about differences between men and women, in their perception of their society and also about marriage. The women control the market through Queen Mothers who are leaders of particular sections of the market such as the yam or tomato sections. Generally these Queen Mothers are elected by the traders. However, Oba, the Plantain Queen Mother acquired her position through influence and because of this she has less control over her workers and over the resolution of differences. Market traders work long hours, make less than a shoe clerk or office worker yet the rewards for them can be many. The residual matrilineal system of Asante society means that inheritance moves from a man to his sister’s children. The result is that an Asante woman is left with no means of support if her husband dies. The traders have gone to work to protect themselves against this possibility, to pay for their children’s education and to maintain their independence. Implicit in this analysis of women traders is the relationship between men and women in Asante society. Marriage is polygamous and the crew interview women about their feelings on marriage and of their hopes of coming marriages. The film portrays the influence women have in the market as a direct contrast to their position in the home. Interviews with several husbands reveal, perhaps not surprisingly, that their perception of women differs from the women’s perception of themselves. The men talk of the importance of having two wives, one to serve when the other is tired; one to grant sexual favours while the other is menstruating; each to compete with the other for male attention thus allowing the husband to retain control. Although the men accept a woman earning extra money, they still say a woman should be submissive and serve men. The women regard themselves as assertive, capable, and in control. Interviews with two young women demonstrate a desire for equality in the home. The film’s analysis is a sympathetic one and full of insight. The focus is, though, rather narrowly on the husband-wife relationship and women’s important relationships with their female and male kin are given little attention. Gracia Clark and Esther Goody’s review of the film (1982) is very informative. Review of the film. RAIN, No. 50, pp. 20– 22. A. Singer with L. Woodhead, 1988. Disappearing World: Television and Anthropology. Granada Television Ltd., Boxtree.West Africa Marriage Trade Gender Role and Identity