Working on ‘Why the Broom’s Neck is Tied’


Going into my first session of the Demarginalising Orature class I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be something quite different from what I’d done before, and I was excited to learn something new. To get a glimpse at a culture that I hadn’t learned a lot about yet.

In class, we were introduced to several folktales and could also watch videos of these folktales being told by storytellers. It was interesting to see that the storytelling is such a community event. And I personally think it is important that more people get to appreciate the long tradition of telling Konkomba folktales and how they are passed down from generation to generation.

In this blog entry I write about my process of coding the folktale ‘Why the Broom’s Neck is Tied’ and subtitling the video of the storyteller telling the folktale.

The Folktale

The Folktale ‘Why the Broom’s Neck is Tied’ is about how the broom received the tie around his neck. It shares the story of ubɔr, who had nine wives, but also had an amorous relationship with his mother. The broom witnessed this incestuous affair one day and told the house mouse about it, the mouse told the cat, the cat told the dog, the dog told the crocodile and the crocodile told ubɔr’s wives. When the wives confront ubɔr with this, he goes to the crocodile, looking for answers. The crocodile then tells him how he found out about it. It all leads back to the broom so ubɔr goes to the broom and ties its neck so it will never share ubɔr’s secrets again. 


My first step for coding this folktale was creating the header. This was probably the most daunting part of first learning to code in class. But once you’ve created one header and can use that as a template it is a much easier — and quicker — task. I simply had to swap out the necessary information: title, storyteller, date and place. Then, the header was done.

The coding for the body of this folktale ended up being quite tedious because there are long song portions in the tale. However, there was also a lot of repetition in the song so I could use copy and paste a lot. During one process of copy and paste, however, I must have forgotten to select a <row> to open a new row in the song, so there was a closing tag </row> but no opening tag. Visual Studio Code then underlined the table in <table type=”translation”> red. And it took me a while to figure out what was actually wrong.

Another tedious task was adding all the glossary items. As we had already discovered in class, cmd + f (for Mac users — for Windows it would be strg + f) was a very helpful shortcut to find all the words for the glossary. But a minor issue with this particular folktale was, that there were the glossary items ubɔ (Likpakpaln word for a dog) and ubɔr (the political head of a Konkomba community) so when I searched for ubɔ it also showed all instances of ubɔr. Adding a space after ubɔ solved that problem partially, but then it didn’t show cases where ubɔ was followed by ‘s, so I had to look those up separately. In the end, the code looked very colourful, but it is very important to code the glossary entry into every occurrence of the word so that readers can click on it anytime they want and be taken to the explanation of the word.

Video Editing

The video editing started with quite a few problems. First, I had issues downloading the video from Sciebo, but our tutor quickly re-uploaded it for me and then I was able to download it without any issues.

By the time I started the video editing, it had been a while since the last time I worked with DaVinci Resolve, so I had to reacquaint myself with the software. Where are the titles again? How do I add subtitles? But the slides that our tutors had prepared for the class came in handy yet again. 

When I finally figured out how to add the subtitles, I came across an issue, that I didn’t have the first time we edited the video for class: my subtitles kept disappearing! I’d add the first subtitle and then move on to the next one and the one I had previously added disappeared. It seems the problem was that a new subtitle was always added, where the red cursor line was positioned. If the new subtitle interfered with an already existing one, it got deleted. So, after that, I made sure to always keep the cursor after each subtitle. 

Because some subtitle sequences had a very short time on the screen, I had to play around quite a bit to make them long enough so the audience has enough time to read them.

Finally, it was time to add the title card and the credits at the end of the video. This was relatively easy, as I had to simply choose which text pre-sets I preferred. For the credits I used three different text pre-sets stacked on top of each other. In order to not mess up all the subtitles I worked on, I selected everything in the project and moved it five seconds further back so I could add the title card. 

Then, the only thing left to do was render the video.


Demarginalising Orature might be one of my favourite classes to date, and I’m not just saying that. We learned a lot about how to code and how to subtitle videos and why it’s important to do so. Tasun, Anne and Michael did a fantastic job at introducing us to these tasks that most of us had never done before. It was a very relaxed and friendly work environment and I’m very happy that I decided to take this class. I also enjoyed working on the folktale ‘Why the Broom’s Neck is Tied’ on my own and strengthening my skills in coding and video subtitling.

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