A Tree Called Karite (Un arbre appelé Karité)Directed by Gaston Kaboré.
Burkina Faso, 1993, 16mm, color, 17 min.
This is the study of a tree considered to be blessed by the gods because of the place it occupies in the traditional food, medicine, and cosmetics of West Africa and in the region’s rich culture and public imagination.
One of the first films to adapt the measured rhythms of traditional African storytelling, Wend Kuuni recasts a precolonial tale of village life during the Mossi empire into a lyrical cinematic form. A peddler crossing the savanna discovers a child lying unconscious in the bush. When the boy comes to, he can’t explain who he is, where he has come from, or what has happened to him: he is mute. The peddler leads him back to the nearest village, where a family welcomes him, gives him the name Wend Kuuni—“God’s Gift”—and a loving sister with whom he bonds deeply. Wend Kuuni regains his speech only after witnessing a tragic event that prompts him to reveal his own painful story. Kaboré uses this simple tale to demonstrate that traditional Mossi values of community can still provide answers to many problems besetting modern Africa, fractured by rural dislocation and political conflict.