Five Windows into Africa. (Digital Media Reviews: Film Music Web Sites)

Article excerpt

Five Windows into Africa. By Patrick McNaughton, John H. Hanson, dele jegede, Ruth M. Stone, and N. Brian Winchester, in collaboration with the Teaching and Learning Technologies Laboratory, Indiana University. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. [Two CD-ROM disks for Macintosh and Windows operating systems; some files must be copied to hard drive, requiring 37 MB; requires QuickTime 3.0 or higher (included). $39.95.I

Five Windows into Africa is an interdisciplinary tool that offers users a multilayered perspective on the riches and challenges of life in Africa. Through spoken narration and text, music and interviews, and films and photographs, the authors attempt to provide users with a sense of being there, of visiting different locations in Africa, of witnessing particular events, and of meeting the individuals involved. The content and presentation of the work is based on the authors' own varied research interests and experiences in Africa. Patrick MeNaughton, professor of African art history at Indiana University, Bloomington, guides us through a bird dance held near Bamako, Mali. John H. Hanson, associate professor of history and director of the African Studies Program at Indiana University, introduces us to Muslim practices in Wa, Ghana. dele jegede, professor of art history at Indiana State University, engages us in life in Lagos, Nigeria. Ruth M. Stone, professor of folklore, ethnomusicology, and African studies a t Indiana University, leads us through a funeral in Liberia. Finally, N. Brian Winchester, director of the Center for the Study of Global Change at Indiana University, highlights tensions in Zimbabwe's transition from colonialism to independence. Each author moves far beyond these particular topics, furthermore, to explore diverse related issues and themes. Reflection upon artistic expression leads to political and religious discussion. Contemplation of modernity and urbanity leads to commentary on traditional practices and rural life. Indeed, by opening five "windows"--five core topic areas--the authors invite users to explore many, many more. By raising common themes in each of their five presentations, they provide viewers with an opportunity to examine differences and similarities across Africa, and to consider relationships between places, issues, and experiences.

Five Windows into Africa requires installation on the computer hard drive. Notes on installing, setting up, and navigating through the program are provided for both Macintosh and Windows users. In fact, the liner notes are limited largely to this information, though they also provide brief summaries of the five core topic areas and information about the authors. For this review I explored the compact discs using a Windows-based computer.

The program opens to a screen featuring the title, Five Windows into Africa, with clickable images that link to the five "windows" to which the title refers. In addition, this screen provides links to the following: a section on "Getting Around," which explains the organizational features of the CD-ROM and the navigational tools provided to facilitate viewers' movement between sections, scenes, and themes; an "Introduction," which briefly describes the project and the background of the authors; a section entitled "Topic Tours," which provides a means for examining particular themes featured across "windows," including issues related to spirituality, power, aesthetics, entrepreneurship, individuals, and community; "Credits"; and, finally, the option to "Quit." In moving past this introductory screen, users are encouraged first to view core events scene by scene and then to explore thematic interconnections between scenes and windows. The following provides a brief look at each of the core events and examples o f the diverse issues raised by the authors in relation to these events.

Patrick McNaughton presents scenes from a bird dance held on the outskirts of Bamako, Mali, with photographs of the town gathering for the event, the dancers and musicians preparing for their entrances, a sequence of masked and unmasked dances, and musical performances and speeches during intermissions. …